Squeaks and Support

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Squeaks and Support

Paige Oatney and Catherine Christy

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The first thing that Henry felt was the heat. After walking through a worn-down hallway to get to Ratsy’s apartment, he entered into the small hole in the wall and was immediately blasted by the hot air in the room. His senses were on fire as he tried to cool himself down. The more he did the more time he was able to look around the room. The whole place was basking in a deep red light coming from different lamps around the room. But, he was most intrigued by the different plants all around. Surrounding the bed, made of a flat rock and some leaves, were vines all on the walls and cacti at the bedside table. He couldn’t swing a dead cricket without hitting some kind of plant or succulent. He liked it. Somehow the room seemed more homey with it because he knew someone cared for all of these plants. A warm feeling grew in his chest, but he couldn’t tell if it was from the heat of the room or his change in demeanor.

After taking a few more steps around the cramped room, Henry looked to Ratsy and softly asked, “So… why are you alone-I mean, why are you here?”

Ratsy took a deep breath in and motioned for Henry to have a seat on the edge of her bathtub. Once the pair took a seat, Ratsy began her story with a shaky voice.

“I am not really sure how to say this but I-I-I ran off. I always feel bad saying that to people like you, but I felt like I had no other choice.”

“People like me?”

“Yeah,” she said, “Kids who don’t have a choice. Kids who just have to leave. When I left it was my choice, but I don’t regret it for a second.”

Henry leaned back. His eyes fixed on Ratsy, he asked, “Was it hard to get this apartment? I mean, you don’t look very old.”

“Well,” Ratsy drew a breath in, “it has been hard. I am only 17 so no one really trusts me to keep up with payments. It took a long time to find a place, but I am here now. It’s not like I wanted this, but I just couldn’t stay with my parents anymore… it was just too toxic there.”

“I understand. I can’t imagine doing all that by myself, but I guess I don’t really have a choice now,” Henry sighed.

“Hey, it’s not all bad! I get to meet fun people like you and I feel much more free. Although, I do wish I could go to school,” Ratsy vocalized.

“Wait,” Henry stopped her, “you don’t go to school?”

“No, I had to stop. I work to support myself now. I am hoping to get my diploma one day.”

Henry smiled and said, “Well, I believe in you! Your current situation may not be great, but I know one day you’re gonna get there. There are so many resources for people in your situation. I can help you find some!”

The pair pulled Henry’s phone out and began searching for websites and sources to help Ratsy get back on track. After being helped by Ratsy, it felt good to repay the favor. They looked through many ratsites, seeing what kind of plans that were out there. After many hours of looking on the rodentnet, they found out more information when it came to Ratsy getting her GED, which are a group of four subject tests which, when passed, provide certification that the test taker has United States or Canadian high school-level academic skills.

“It’s your best bet, and it can help you get a better job for the future!” Henry told Ratsy as she continued to read the information.

“Yeah… gosh I can’t believe I’m finally going to do this. Thank you!” Ratsy embraced Henry as she squealed with delight. Henry felt happy, with a hint of pride radiating in his chest. He felt whole for the first time in a while.  

 

Although Ratsy is a fictional character, her situation is similar to over a million of high school students in the US. This problem, however, remains mainly under the radar for administrators and faculty.

In 2017, there were 1,301,238 students who experienced homelessness, meaning that the students lacked a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. This definition also includes children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason. In Ohio alone 29,403 students a year experience homelessness. People are concerned with the negative effects of the physical and emotional well-being of these kids, many experiencing inadequate health care, developmental delays, psychological problems and educational underachievement.

Congress passed the McKinney-Vento Act in 1987, designed to provide assistance to homeless youth. It was then revised three years later to highlight how schools will become the only consistent place to find and help homeless youth. But, even with the act, homeless students are still being overlooked. Almost 42% of these homeless students leave their high school or even middle school education. Many schools have put in place homeless education coordinator who help and support the growing number of homeless students. There are more than 16,000 of them nationwide. Even with them, some homeless students are still left to drop out and support themselves.

There are many federal programs that these students can go through, after they’ve dropped out, to help them achieve a high school diploma or a GED. Youth.gov, a federal agency that supports programs and services focusing on youth, is partnered with over 20 different government companies to help kids find any kind of support that they need. Even a simple Google Search can assist these students to get on the right path of their education, no matter the circumstance they are in.

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