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Student succeeds while experiencing homelessness
September 5, 2022
Ashlynn Smith-Asharri
Grade: 12 School: Cerritos High School District: ABC Unified School District ACSA region: 14 Ashlynn Smith-Asharri is proof that adversity is no match for perseverance. She has found ways to succeed at Cerritos High while experiencing homelessness. From shelters to motels to nights in the family car, Ashlynn has lacked a stable place to call home. Teachers describe her as a “model student” and this fall, she’s headed to Cal State Long Beach where she plans to major in marine biology.
What was your reaction when you learned you won the ACSA Every Student Succeeding award? I was very surprised. I had no idea that I won an award for anything. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I thought it was funny because I was homeless at the time. And I wasn’t expecting anything great to happen. I think it was a bit of a blessing. I was really grateful that I got a chance and the opportunity to win this award.
Can you share a little bit about some of the challenges that you faced? Our situation with homelessness began in June of 2021. We were staying in a low-income apartment complex. But there were some weird circumstances and we ended up staying in our car for a bit. It was just an old little silver Ford car. We stayed in it for the summer. And when school started, my mom was able to afford a hotel room. We would stay there some nights just to shower and stuff because that was the only place we could shower since we were living in a car.
How much did all of this impact you emotionally? I think I did go through a bit of depression or maybe anxiety during the time when we were dealing with the homeless situation. Some of my grades did plummet at first. But I picked my grades back up. And even though it was hard, and I did cry a lot, I tried my best. And mainly, I wasn’t really thinking about myself. I was just more concerned about my mom because she had been previously hospitalized in the summer with osteoarthritis. It was hard for her to walk and hard for her to breathe. I had a lot to think about besides myself.
For people who have gone through some of the challenges that you have faced, what would your advice be to them? I would say that you’re extremely strong for even just existing. Just because you’re in a bad situation now, it doesn’t mean that it’s permanent. Suffering is temporary. I know it gets hard, and I almost gave up too. I think you should keep persevering and just keep going. I really think that something greater is going to happen for you.
ACSA 2022 Region 14 ESS Ashlynn Smith-Asharri
ACSA 2022 Region 14 ESS Ashlynn Smith-Asharri.
ACSA 2022 Region 14 ESS Ashlynn Smith-Asharri.