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Homeless students deal with many struggles every day that most kids never have to worry about. With an unstable environment, many homeless students start to fall behind in school, adding to the many hurdles they already have to overcome. In the third part of our series on Homeless Students in the Ozarks, Adam Murphy looks at the struggles in the classroom students have because of being homeless.
“When you’re at home and you have 30 or 40 people running in all the time because they’re dealing drugs, there is no finding a place, you just can’t. When they give you homework it’s hard to get it done because when you live in that lifestyle, it’s so hectic and it’s not stable, so you don’t do your homework. That really affects your grade,” said Vidania.
That’s Vidania, a homeless student who came from a home affected by drug abuse. She’s talking about how her unstable environment made it impossible to do homework.
This is the case for many homeless students. When these students are going through family problems, or wondering if they will have a place to stay that night, it becomes difficult to concentrate on homework. As a result, their performance in school suffers. A.J. is a runaway from Dexter, in southeast Missouri. He spent some time in a shelter, and he says finding a place to concentrate on homework was a difficult thing.
“It was hard sometimes because I had roommates. It was kind of difficult to get alone time so I could do it and not listen to all the yelling and all the talking and other people. It’s kind of hard to concentrate sometimes on schoolwork,” said A.J.
Another homeless student, Stormie, performed poorly as a student in Aurora while she was tossed from place to place. But when she was placed in a stable foster home in Springfield, everything changed. That year, Stormie defied the odds and was a straight A student at Hillcrest High School. She talks about why she was able to perform well in school.
“…probably because I just enjoyed going to school and I was in a stable home and it was like a normal teenage life, how it’s supposed to be. For that whole year everything just seemed normal. It came natural to me I guess,” Stormie said.
Springfield Public Schools work with students and their teachers to help homeless students overcome these obstacles. Becky Morgan is the homeless student liaison for Springfield Public Schools. She says students can work with their teachers to find better ways to complete their homework and study.
“Get with the teacher and try to set aside time during the day, at school where the child could do their studies and keep up on their homework,” said Morgan.
Morgan says teachers also work with homeless students after school. Many schools offer tutoring services to help homeless students keep up with their class work.
Homeless student Vidania says another thing homeless kids have to worry about is theft.
“It is really hard for somebody, especially if they are on the streets doing their homework because there’s also always the possibility of something happening to your stuff,” Vidania said.
Students like Stormie made it through school because of the help they got from the school. Stormie missed a lot of class as a homeless student, but she says she had one teacher who worked with her to make up the work she missed.
“There was one teacher my seventh grade year that actually tried to help me and get me to pass and do my homework. She offered tutoring for me if I wanted it,” said Stormie.
Vidania was also able to succeed in school because of the extra effort of her teachers.
“I did have problems, my teachers worked with me a lot. I had some that would help if I wanted to come after school. A lot of my teachers did that,” Vidania said.
Vidania is a recent graduate of Central High School. She plans on attending OTC and eventually becoming a Social Worker.
For KSMU News, I’m Adam Murphy.