"Homelessness is the lack of a fixed, regular place to live."
My passion for the law began as a teenager, when my mother and I were forced into homelessness. It grew in college when I was invited to the White House by President Obama’s staff to help draft legislation to aid other homeless students.
When I was 16 years old, the home my mother and I rented in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was flooded and we became homeless. We couch-surfed, lived out of trash bags and stayed in shelters. A friend in Georgia offered to take us in, but when we got there his electricity was turned off. We had to clean ourselves with cold water. As we sat there at night in the dark I thought to myself, “I don’t want to live like this anymore. I have to find a way to go to college and make a better life for myself.” While trying to register at a high school in Atlanta, we were notified that some of my high school credits from Pennsylvania were non-transferable. Knowing that my goal was to go to college and law school, my mother made the ultimate sacrifice to move us back to Pittsburgh.
After being taken in at the Salvation Army, my difficulties re-enrolling in high school continued, because we had no permanent address. Despite the McKinney-Vento Act, which is a federal law that provides federal money for homeless shelter programs, and mandates that children who have lost their housing have the right to attend school, no matter where they live or how long they have lived there. It took four months for me to begin school again, which drew the attention of lawmakers and the local news.
I was thrilled to continue my education. I was named Valedictorian of my graduating class, completed an internship at Jones Day in Pittsburgh, and chose to attend Paul Quinn College, in Dallas, Texas. They offered me housing, a scholarship, a stellar education and the support I needed to thrive. I was allowed to stay in the dorms during holidays and summer break, because I had no other place to go. A news reporter who had done a story about me, found out that the cafeteria was closed and I was eating out of the vending machine and came to take me grocery shopping. I became a Resident Advisor, was voted class president, joined Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc, featured in the Lumina Foundation magazine and was named a finalist for “Texan of the Year” by the Dallas Morning News.
During my sophomore year, I was honored to be named one of President Obama’s White House Student Ambassadors. I went to Washington D.C. and helped create “Homeless to Hopeful,” an initiative that assists homeless college students and allows them to excel despite their obstacles. We developed the framework for Historically Black Colleges and Universities to provide housing and jobs for homeless college students with the goal of self-sufficiency upon graduation.
I plan to become a judge so that I can advocate for those who have been wrongfully denied access to education. I plan to work with DISD, and city council to reinforce the McKinney Vento Act. We are losing many homeless students who are dropping out of school, because they feel that they don’t have a future, because school systems are not adhering to the law and are denying students access to education, because they don’t have a permanent address.
I currently on the steering committee of After8toEducate, and CoAct, an SVP Dallas Partner, and working with Tarrant County schools to assist homeless students. I vow to spend the rest of my life, addressing the issues of homelessness, showing the world that giving up is never an option, and serving my country and community.