"Graduating valedictorian of my high school class is my biggest accomplishment to date. I had to make many sacrifices including staying home to study rather than spending time with my friends to do well in school. I spent a lot of time in the computer lab at my property to complete my class assignments. My hard work paid off with a full scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C., and I just finished my freshman year. I look forward to my college years and what life has waiting for me.
Looking back, I know that growing up in public housing was the driving force and motivation that kept me focused and made me strive to succeed. In my senior year of high school, I was voted class president. This gave me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills. Being class president taught me that a good leader is not selfish, but someone who keeps his word, cares about others and is able to work with everyone."
Kimberly is the kind of high school senior that every girl looks up to. Kimberly has a great GPA, and plays competitive varsity softball and tennis. She participates in an anti-bullying club, volunteers her time at the local elementary school, and finds time for a part-time job. She’s among the first in her family to attend college, and is thrilled to be attending UCLA. Kimberly is also a resident of public housing. "The opportunities that the housing authority has provided me and my family have allowed me to get to the place I am today. If we hadn’t had the stability of housing and the community focus on education, I am not sure I would be standing here, about to be a college kid. I’m proud of my neighborhood, proud of my family, and I’m so excited for the future."
Growing up in a neighborhood of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), she participated in tutoring services through elementary and middle school. Her current success demonstrates exactly how tutoring and other educational programs sponsored by public housing benefit families and children.
Graduate, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts - Resident, Sarasota, Florida
Chelsea and her family have overcome many hardships throughout the past 13 years, and where to live used to be one of them. As an orphan at the age of eight, Chelsea and her brother moved in with their grandmother, as well as her great-grandmother and great aunt. With the financial strain on the grandmother to provide for the family on a single income, they applied for and moved into public housing in Sarasota, Florida in 2000.
Chelsea's involvement in programs sponsored by the housing authority provided a wealth of stability and learning opportunities. Throughout her teenage years she participated in a 4-H Club; Kids Café, an afterschool feeding program through local Feeding America affiliates; and both participated in and taught nutrition classes to younger children in the community. At school, a convenient 15-minute walk from her new home, Chelsea became very involved in the band and was easily able to stay after school to participate.
Chelsea also had various cheerleaders and mentors growing up, including the Executive Director of the Sarasota Housing Authority, who provided her with the opportunity to intern at the housing authority for three consecutive summers. Housing authority case workers and her high school guidance counselor also influenced her both personally and academically, encouraging her to apply for scholarships and esteemed college programs. Ultimately, Chelsea received the HAI Group Scholarship Award and was accepted to the Women of Distinction Program at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
"From my personal experience, I know that every family [in public housing] has a different story," said Chelsea. "Most don't desire to live in public housing all their lives, but circumstances are never what you plan them to be. While I'm looking forward to my move away from public housing … I will always remember the stability it provided me while achieving my goals."