Six High School Seniors Who Overcame Homelessness Granted Scholarships

Local non-profit awards scholarship money to 6 Pittsburgh students who overcame the odds and graduated high school.

As if going to high school isn't tough enough for some kids, imagine attending while homeless. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, this is a challenge that over 4,000 children in Allegheny County experienced during the 2017-2018 school year - a 16% increase from the previous year. While some of those children live with friends and families, other are in foster care, shelters or transitional housing.

That's why opportunities such as The Hope Through Learning award are so important. The award, provided by the Homeless Education Fund, is given to youth who have attended and excelled in high school while homeless and plan to attend a secondary or trade school. This year, six high school graduates have been provided with a $2,500 scholarship in the Pittsburgh region. They can apply the funds to such expenses as books, a computer and living expenses such as transportation and childcare.

One of the scholarship recipients, Alivia Bradford, 18, graduated from Western Beaver Junior-Senior High School and plans to attend Penn State Beaver to study psychology. Bradford has goals of opening a Christian-based therapy non-profit.

"Being in a shelter was hard, because I still went to school and had an AP class," Ms. Bradford, noted at Friday's award ceremony at the National Aviary on the North Side. "I didn't have much and with the way I was looking, I didn't want to be there."

The Pennsylvania Department of Education noted a 21% increase in homeless children from the 2016-17 school year to 2017-18, with all 43 school districts in Allegheny county now reporting homeless students.

The Homeless Children Education Fund's director, Carlos Carter (pictured below at Friday's award ceremony), said the reasons for the increase in the region vary.

"There isn't a one size fits all answer to this," he said. "I think they are doing a better job at reporting the numbers, and of course we know there's gentrification, lack of affordable housing, and disparities in the allocation of wealth."

If you would like to become involved and help the Homeless Children's Education Fund continue to provide awards such as The Hope Through Learning award, you can do any of the following:

Volunteer: There are a number of events that the HCEF needs assistance with throughout the year. Or, you can become a mentor!

Spread the Word: Visit and share HCEF's Facebook page to spread awareness.

Donate: Make a one-time or recurring donation via the non-profit's website.

Shop: You can purchase school supplies and other needed items from the organization's Amazon Wish List.

(Image courtesy of Homeless Children's Education Fund.)

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