Opinion: Listening to What NYC’s Homeless Students Have to Tell Us

The first day of school is a day of promise and possibility for the more than 1.1 million students in our city schools. But the one out of ten students in New York City schools who are homeless face formidable obstacles the others won’t. Since these obstacles are too often invisible to the public eye, these students want you to know what they are facing and what you can do to help them have the same opportunity to succeed in school as their peers.

I heard their stories and witnessed their intelligence and resilience when I had the honor of teaching a documentary workshop for middle and high school students who are homeless. They collaboratively produced a Know Your Rights video documentary as part of a Saturday program run by the NYC DOE Office of Students in Temporary Housing. Their goal was to inform others about their living conditions and their rights to an equitable education under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. They also sought to counter the stigma of living in shelters and show other homeless students that they are not alone. I am writing in this space to support their advocacy and further amplify their voices.

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