(Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) – Paul is an exemplary 17 year-old student. He has a 4.7 GPA and will attend the University of Southern California this fall on a full academic scholarship to study aeronautical engineering. During high school, Paul woke up every day at 4 a.m. to ride his bike 12 miles to school. On the way, he’d stop at McDonald’s to wash up. Paul also is one of 2,300 homeless students attending Broward County public schools.
To bring awareness to youth homelessness in Broward County and raise funds to provide them with everyday necessities, the Broward Education Foundation launched a 60-day crowdfunding campaign on Crowdrise under Broward Education Foundation where donors can view a powerful behind-the-scenes documentary. The page can be found by visiting https://www.crowdrise.com/helpthehomelessyouth/fundraiser/browardeducationfoun.
“This is a real problem that (few) know about,” said Ned MacPherson, a Broward Education Foundation board member who is spearheading the campaign and who coordinated the video. “These kids live in horrendous conditions. It’s nothing short of miraculous that students like Paul overcome living on the streets to go to college. It’s amazing how tenacious and resilient they are. You’ll see that in the video.”
In the video, donors will also meet 8 year-old Samara, who has been living in and out of a car with her mom, and Passha, who has lived on the streets since she was 12 years old, and who will attend FAMU this fall on a full academic scholarship. Passha talks about how she would hide in all night laundromats, hiding behind washers and dryers to protect herself from predators.
“The students hide their situation at school,” said Broward Education Foundation Board Member and Broward School Board Member Ann Murray. “They are uncomfortable and embarrassed, but they need our help. Sometimes there is a two to three week wait before their families can move into a homeless shelter.”
One of the misconceptions surrounds what homeless youth need. Paul, for example, describes in the video that he had 10 sweaters. He was thankful for the donated sweaters, but he only needed one. What homeless youth really need are bus passes, which other than a bike is their only form of transportation, Publix or WalMart gift cards and toiletries.
“The need is real and the stories are powerful,” said Thomas P. Severino, president/CEO of the Broward Education Foundation. “We are already seeing incredible community support for our campaign. Dr. Nabil El Sanadi, president and CEO of Broward Health, made the first donation to the crowdfunding campaign, contributing $5,000. Together, we can have a positive impact on the lives of homeless students.”
According to the Homeless Education Assistance Resource Team (H.E.A.R.T.), which helps families, children and youth in transition, of the 2,323 youth identified as homeless: 19% resided in shelters; 64% were doubled-up; 5% resided in a car, park, campground, bus or other public place; 11% resided in a hotel or motel; and 1% were awaiting foster care placement. Of the total number of students identified as homeless, 318 were unaccompanied homeless youth, an increase of 64 from 2012-13.
“What began as a three minute video, turned into a documentary,” said Carol Mitchell of H.E.A.R.T. “Ned realized as he was filming how compelling these kids and their situations are and that their stories cannot fit into a condensed video. Hopefully when donors see this, they will want to help us help our students.”
About the Broward Education Foundation:
Established in 1983, the nonprofit Broward Education Foundation (BEF) aligns with Broward County Public Schools by providing support for innovative teaching to advance Pre K-12 achievement; critically needed educational materials for Title I school teachers and students, and scholarships for qualified high school seniors. Each year, the Foundation contributes more than $2 million to Broward County schools, serving as the catalyst for educational excellence.