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Local High School Students Who Struggled With Homelessness Receive College Scholarships

Alexander Popichak
90.5 WESA
Scholarship recipients and HCEF Directors pose following the Hope Through Learning Awards ceremony at the National Aviary Thursday, July 20.

High school can be hectic enough, but 3,000 students in Allegheny County experienced homelessness during the last school year. 

Eight students who had spent time homeless received scholarships from the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, or HCEF, Thursday during an awards ceremony at the National Aviary.

Students can use the $2,500 awards toward tuition, books or other college-associated costs. For graduating seniors like Monet Spencer, the award comes as both financial relief and as a means of connection.

“I wrote personally about my own story of how my mom had Type 1 Diabetes and she passed last year and I became homeless because of that,” Spencer said, referring to the application essay. “I struggled finishing my last year of high school and not knowing where I was going and if it was even possible to go to high school.”

Spencer said she and her twin brother moved from place to place, but were able to stay enrolled at Brashear High School.

“It means the world to me, actually. Right now I work so much toward paying my college tuition so I can go to college,” Spencer said. “Getting this award helps with college, but also helps me connect with other kids who have similar situations to me and see that I’m not the only one that goes through this.”

Credit Alexander Popichak / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Students receive backpacks filled with school supplies as part of the HCEF awards.

In addition to the awards, students each received a backpack with essentials for starting college like pens, notebooks and binders. The money for these awards came from donors to HCEF, based in Pittsburgh's Strip District.

Mircalene Valcin received the award last year, and will begin her sophomore year this fall at CCAC. Originally from Haiti, she said she was kicked out of her family’s home her senior year of high school.

Valcin said that she hopes to become a nurse and help people. The motivation is personal.

“Since when I was little, I was in Haiti.” Valcin said. “I was sick, and when I went to the hospital they did not take care of me. You know how when you live in a province, it’s a small hospital. You go to the hospital and you’d don’t even have a chance to get in because you have to be in line.” 

Valcin said that without help from her community and church, she doesn’t know where she would have ended up. For her, the award offered a base on which she could plan out her life.

This marks the fourth year HCEF has given students the awards, and is the largest class of recipients to date.