“Where you are right now does not mean you will be there forever. I was homeless and even at my lowest point my tutor pushed me in a nice way to keep up with school and focus on my future. When I got the first acceptance letter to college I felt indebted to Katie, I don’t think I could have done it without her.” – Chynna Lloyd.
Chynna has received numerous acceptance letters for college and wants to study law. College will be a financial burden for Chynna; she is currently applying for scholarships, including The Catherine McAuley Scholarship at School on Wheels. She agreed to share her story with us at the urging of her tutor Katie Balderas. Chynna does not want people’s pity, but her tutor explained that by telling her story she could show what she has overcome, and with other people’s help, there is so much more she can do.
Chynna was in 5th grade and her family had been homeless for a couple of years. Moving from place to place, she attended seven different schools by the time School on Wheels and her tutor Katie met her in 2009.
Life and school had never been easy. Chynna was embarrassed at school because she didn’t have the same things as the other kids and was teased because her clothes were old and didn’t fit. She was angry that her family couldn’t afford new clothes, but she was more upset about the fact that she couldn’t go to slumber parties or leave the Domestic Violence Shelter to play jump rope outside with her school friends who lived nearby. The shelter looked like all the other apartment complexes except that it had gates around it. Chynna never told her friends in the neighborhood why. She was smart and got good grades but had missed a lot of school and knew she needed help catching up, especially in math. She was determined to go to college.
At first, Katie and Chynna bonded over music, Michael Jackson, Alicia Keys and their love of books. With the help of her School on Wheels tutor Katie, Chynna began to focus on school instead of her homelessness. They also had a shared frustration with math; over the months and years, they worked on mastering math together!
“I helped Chynna with study skills because they were a challenge for her. Especially living in a shelter. I helped her prepare for tests and gave her tips to stay organized. I also helped her to advocate for herself at school. I attended her parent teacher conferences and asked her teachers for advice. By asking for help at school, I modeled positive behavior for Chynna and she started staying after school to ask her teachers for help when she needed to.”
Seven years later, this fearless duo has weathered personal triumphs and tribulations (the death of Chynna’s father, the birth of Katie’s first child and Chynna’s family finally finding permanent housing). Their friendship is deep:
“Chynna is a resilient, strong, and smart young woman and it’s been one of the biggest joys of my life to know her. She was one of the first people I told when I found out I was pregnant and she was one of the first people to meet my son after he was born.”
“Katie’s heart is really pure; she is a beautiful person – inside and out. She is the type of person we need on this earth.”
“Being a School on Wheels tutor has helped me better understand the true challenges of living in poverty. I have a stronger sense of how important education is to help families break the cycle of poverty, but at the same time I now have an awareness of how poverty can make it so much harder to focus on education.”
We asked Chynna if she had any advice for other students experiencing homelessness:
“If you need help and you can get it, School on Wheels cares and will actually help you with school. Like Katie, School on Wheels finds the good in everyone. Take all the help you can get and don’t be prideful; tutors are expensive and this program provides them for free! I think School on Wheels is a great program. They found me the perfect tutor. “
Chynna graduates in June. She has numerous college acceptances and is planning a career in law.
Katie is a Policy Analyst and has a master’s degree in public health.