NEW YORK (WABC/CNN) - More than 100 New York City students were honored for graduating high school and getting accepted into college, all while living in homeless shelters.
Alexus Lawrence is her high school’s valedictorian, heading to Brooklyn College on the path to become a pediatrician. She also won a $2,000 scholarship for academic excellence – and she did it all while being homeless.
"I'm just thinking about how far I've come. You have your head down because it's shameful in a way because some people may bully you if they ever knew that you lived in a shelter system,” Alexus Lawrence said.
Alexus Lawrence was one of more than 100 homeless students saluted Thursday night by the Department of Homeless Services. Every one of them beat the odds by graduating high school, and they will be headed to college in the fall.
The students each received a laptop and a duffel bag with freshman essentials.
"They're homeless because of economics, the gap between rents and income,” said Steven Banks, commissioner for NYC Social Services.
That includes Alexus’ father, Henry Lawrence, who works as a chef at a Brooklyn hospital. When the rent got too high, he says he had no other choice.
"You want to keep the family together, you got to do what you gotta do. Whatever I have, they have. Sometimes I do without. I’m gonna make sure they have,” Henry Lawrence said.
On any given night, more than 15,000 school-aged children will sleep in an NYC shelter.