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Philadelphia Student Overcomes Homelessness

  • Quaasha Artis has experienced many hardships but she never gave up, and can now proudly call herself a 2020 graduate from Lincoln High School in Philadelphia.

    Artis is the sixth of eight children and experienced homelessness for most of 2018 during the end of her sophomore year and the following summer.

    While her single mother did everything she could to help the family survive, Artis went to school and worked, while also taking care of her two younger brothers, one of whom is on the autism spectrum and the other who suffers from agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder.

    Quaasha Artis “I don’t use labels like homeless, autistic or agoraphobic,” Artis said in a story that appeared on the School District of Philadelphia’s website. “I believe, and I tell my siblings, that labels lead to limits. These things shouldn’t limit us! Instead I set an example of hard work and taking every opportunity. This can get you where you want to go, no matter the obstacles.” 

    Artis also received valuable assistance along the way from the Teen Evolution Experience Network (T.E.E.N.) program, created by the Philadelphia school district. The program is designed to connect youth experiencing homelessness or displacement with others in the same situation in order to support one another, learn together, and develop critical life skills. Through the program she was offered the camaraderie and friendships that she needed to stay motivated in school.

    In addition to the T.E.E.N. program, Artis and her family were helped by Families Forward, a Philadelphia organization dedicated to meeting the needs of homeless families by providing information, advice, guidance, protection and shelter.

    “The staff there made homelessness more bearable than it ever seemed it could be,” said Artis. “They provided a room for all of us, hygiene tools, resources for things like financial assistance and housing assistance, and friendship. They helped my brother, my mom and I get jobs, without expecting anything in return. They helped us get on our feet.”

    After nine months the family was selected for housing.

    The tough times that Artis and her family went through have instilled in her a deep confidence and a strong belief in herself that propelled her to graduate from high school. She will take that same determination with her to Manor College in Pennsylvania in the fall, where she plans to study forensic toxicology and criminal justice.

    “I can’t put into words how special graduation is for me,” Artis exclaimed with a quivering voice. “I’ve been through it all, I’ve hit rock bottom. I wanted to give up, I wanted to drop out. But together we pushed on!”