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WNET MetroFocus Feature


Press Release


Thursday, June 30, 2016

CONTACT: Lauren Gray



Students honored and gifted with laptop at second annual Future Leaders ceremony at New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum

NEW YORK— On Wednesday, 100 homeless high school seniors who are graduating and continuing their education, were honored for their accomplishments by the New York City Department of Homeless Services in a ceremony at New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum. Honorees were gifted with a laptop and heard remarks from speakers including Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Herminia Palacio, Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. In addition to their academic accomplishments, many have overcome tremendous personal obstacles.

Honoree Dashown Wilson, Jr., who was a featured speaker at last night’s event, has been accepted to Alfred State, where he was recruited to play football, and recently won his high school’s Most Valuable Player Award. Dashown was raised by a single dad and has been in and out of the shelter system for several years. He stated that his love for football provided him with motivation to succeed, even during very difficult times. Dashown’s advice for other young people navigating the shelter system is to stay focused on helping themselves and their families.

Honoree Faith Newman was accepted to Jacksonville University but has decided to stay in New York City and attend Brooklyn College to help support her family. She has served as an intern with BAM and received a $10,000 scholarship for college. Faith and her mother were living in Florida when her mother, who is originally from New York City, lost her job. They moved back to the city in the hopes of finding a job. They entered shelter in 2012, and Faith’s mother Hillary noted that she told Faith at this time, “This is just a hiccup. Focus on what you need to do during these years. New York City is helping us get through this.”

Honorees have been accepted to schools including The United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School, St. John’s University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, Ithaca College, State University of New York, Brooklyn College, LaGuardia Community College and others.

Recent data on homeless high school students in New York City:

  • Of the more than 16,000 school-age children living in shelter in New York City in May 2016, more than 2,500 were high school students.
  • 1 in 4 students in shelter missed more than 40 days of school in 2014-2015 school year.
  • The 2014-2015 high school graduation rate for homeless high school seniors was 49% compared with overall citywide graduation rate of over 70%.
  • This administration recently allocated $30 million in funding for health clinics and initiatives to support students in temporary housing including new literacy programs and attendance teachers, more social workers and expanded clinical services.

“I am thrilled to honor this class of graduates and celebrate their achievements,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Herminia Palacio. “These smart and vibrant young men and women have overcome incredible obstacles, and the de Blasio Administration is committed to supporting young people like them, their families, and all vulnerable New Yorkers.”

“Congratulations to all of the graduates and their families who have demonstrated extraordinary perseverance and are now heading to college” said NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “I look forward to following these students as they begin college, lead successful careers, and help build a brighter future for our City.”

“I am honored to be part of a city and an administration that is deeply committed to serving and supporting homeless families, individuals and young people,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “The accomplished young people here tonight have faced significant challenges and their stories both move and inspire. We will continue to work hard to keep making changes and improve homeless services for all homeless New Yorkers.”

"It was incredibly inspiring to welcome this group of remarkable high school students, who prevailed over tremendous odds to achieve impressive success," said Christopher Platt, The New York Public Library's Vice President for Public Service. "Every day, the Library offers free programs, classes and materials -- some in partnership with the Department of Homeless Services -- that provide opportunities to all New Yorkers, including the most vulnerable. That work makes us an appropriate space to honor the accomplishments of these extraordinary graduates - congratulations to them!