By Justin Heo
VOX ATL contributor Justin Heo visited The Drake House to speak with teens experiencing housing instability to find out how that impacts their education.
To protect their identities, we have excluded their names.
VOX ATL: What do you think teens experiencing housing instability need in order to be successful in school?
Sandy Springs Middle School, Male Student, 13: They need good teachers. If you don’t have a good teacher or if you have a teacher that you don’t like, you are not going to cooperate. They need a positive outlet, something they can do to stay maintained, something to look forward to.
Sandy Springs Middle School, Female Student, 13: They need a stable place to live, where they are safe. Something could be bothering you and that can drop your grades. My mom reassures me I can do it. She has a Ph.D. and a master’s degree and wants us to stay good on our education because that will make sure we have a stable life in the future.
VOX ATL: What would you change about your current school or the education system?
Sandy Springs Middle School, Male Student, 13: I find everything just right about my school. It’s good, nothing that needs to be changed. There are some things that need to be added, like recess. We need recess because it helps us to be more social with each other.
Sandy Springs Middle School, Female Student, 13: I think they should change the time [school starts]. We have to wake up so early. It can still be eight hours a day but not so early.
Roswell High School, Female Student, 17: I would change the testing. I feel like when we take the big test at the end of the year, it’s hard to pass because you forget the beginning of the semester. I think a test each semester would be better.
VOX ATL: What have been some obstacles you’ve faced as a teen experiencing housing instability and going to school?
Sandy Springs Middle School, Female Student, 13: We don’t have a school bus [in my neighborhood], so we have to take the city bus. That causes my mom to spend a lot of money that she could be saving. Sometimes I feel like I’m an overthinker, even my teachers say that I do that. That can make my grades drop because I worry about making the wrong decision.
Sandy Springs Middle School, Male Student, 13: Well, I used to not like being insulted. But I’m fine now, I realized that it doesn’t define me.
Roswell High School, Female Student, 17: The biggest challenge would have to be how to balance school and personal life. I never realized how much personal life can affect your school life. I heard about it, but when I started going through stuff I didn’t even realize how it was affecting my schooling.
Me and my mom started struggling when I was in ninth grade. That was hard. My grades were dropping, and I became depressed and didn’t care about school anymore. I switched schools in 10th grade to see if I could do better because in ninth grade I was placed with the bad behavior kids.
It got a bit easier in 10th grade, but I became more depressed because I didn’t know how to handle it. But The Drake House and the Home Stretch helped and made me less stressed and let me know I was not alone and that a lot of people are going through this.
Seeing other people who just gave up, it makes you realize I don’t want to be like that. Junior year was hard, too; that’s when I learned I had a learning deficiency. But things got easier when I learned how to handle things. Now that I am a senior, I am looking forward to applying everything I learned and experienced.
VOX ATL: What is the biggest myth or misconception about teens experiencing housing instability?
Roswell High School, Female Student, 17: The behavior. I think especially for a black person, they think you are mean and thuggish. We are just normal people that are trying to get through it.
VOX ATL: Do you have any advice for teens who are in similar situations or in general?
Sandy Springs Middle School, Female Student, 13: If it happens to you and you’re not doing good in school, just set goals you think you can reach, like study more.
Roswell High School, Female Student, 17: The biggest thing I learned in high school is just to go for what you really want to do. A lot of people told me they wish they did that at a young age. I think going for my dreams now will help me in the future. Whatever you are going through, whether it was school or family related, it won’t last, it will get better, just stay strong.
Justin Heo, 17, is a senior at Dunwoody High School. who likes to bullet journal in his free time.
This story was published at VOXATL.org, Atlanta’s home for uncensored teen publishing and self-expression. For more about the nonprofit VOX, visit www.voxatl.org.