"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."
Meet Vickie and Ann
Meet Vickie and Ann
A strong sense of community, work ethic and family values helped Vickie and Ann Bowman succeed while growing up in public housing in Lavonia, Georgia. The girls, who are twins, are the oldest in a family of six children, and were raised by their mother after their father passed away when the girls were 18 years old. After moving into public housing, their mother was determined to create a positive experience for the family and immediately became a strong force in their community – through church, school activities, and opening her home to other family members.
The girls also became involved in the community at a young age, taking their mother's advice to heart: "the community is only as strong as you make it." With much encouragement and motivation from their mother, Vickie and Ann participated actively in sports in high school, and although they both could have continued playing in college, they were more determined to focus on their academic achievements. Both women received scholarships from the Lavonia Housing Authority, attended college, and graduated from the University of Georgia.
Today, Vickie is a Felony Probation Officer with the Georgia Department of Corrections, where she handles her own cases and helps train other officers to do the same. She focuses specifically on drugs and mental health corrections to help get residents back to their own communities where they can thrive. Vickie is also a youth pastor and a volunteer for the Ferst Foundation Literacy Fair, where she mentors children.
Ann is currently a computer teacher at an elementary school in Carnesville, Georgia, and teaches Health & Wellness and Character Education in all the primary and intermediate elementary schools throughout Franklin County. In addition, Ann is a volunteer office administrator for SASH (Social of Advancement of Sexual Health) in her hometown. She is also the president of a local community leadership program, Leadership Franklin, and is the first African American woman to hold this position.
Both women are interested in going back to school to get their teaching certificates, as they love working with children. Overall, Vickie describes her efforts as: "I do what I do today to serve the community because it’s worth serving – I want to create a stronger community."