Homelessness affects local students

Tuesday, August 26th 2008, 11:40 pm
By: News 9

By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Many of the homeless in our community are kids and this is a struggle that could be affecting the child sitting right next to yours in school.

Jennae Ceasar is studying history. It's one of her favorite subjects.

"Equality, liberty, justice," Ceasar read from her tect book.

As she reads about the fundamentals of American rights, she can't help but think equality is not something she's had much of in her life.

"It makes you very emotional when you talk about it to other people and you really don't want them knowing," Caesar said. 

The 17-year-old has spent a lot of her life bouncing around homeless, couch to couch, shelter to shelter.

These days life is better. She can pick up her little brothers and actually take them to a home. They've only had it for a few months, so memories of the struggle at school are still tough.

"If you move around a lot, it's kinda hard to trust somebody, but I try to still trust," Caesar said. 

That wasn't an issue when Jennae was younger. Back then, although still homeless, she would have been one of these kids at Positive Tomorrows, a special private school run by Char Carter.

"None of our children at this time have a home," said Carter, the Positive Tomorrows Executive Dirctor.

"It makes your learning a lot easier too, because you're not worried about trying to make friends or trying to be the most popular or whatever," said Ceasar.

But Positive Tomorrows doesn't have enough funding for older kids. They can only serve kindergarten through 5th grade and max out at 42 students which pushes older kids to public schools.

"When you get into public schools, people are usually trying to make fun of you. That's it. They're thinking how they can ruin your life and I see that a lot," said the 17-year-old.

Last year alone, Oklahoma City Public Schools had 1832 homeless students and the number is growing.

"It's large and it's probably almost double that, so we're working to identify all of those students" said OKC Schools Homeless Education Coordinator Brooke Davis.

Some are homeless with their family, but some are completely on their own trying to survive with no help from the government.

"There is this population out there that no one seems to recognize," said Maureen Kelley of Youth Services in Oklahoma County.

Students turn to places like Youth Services, which runs a program that tries to provide everything from basics to help with events like Prom. It's help that goes to kids similar to Jennae who are all working harder than ever.

"To graduate, that's all I can think, just to graduate," Caesar said.

Jennae Caesar is also hoping to go to college and study real estate. She wants to help others avoid homelessness by finding affordable housing.