Students overcome homelessness, graduate high school

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Most graduation parties include decorations, cake and maybe even gifts. A special gathering on Saturday included those items and the sense of accomplishment felt by 25 young men and women who achieved their goal despite the extreme challenges faced through homelessness.

During their senior years, students were matched with case managers volunteering with Outreach, a faith-based nonprofit in Indianapolis.

The organization has contracted with Indianapolis Public Schools and MSD of Pike Township to partner with school social workers in helping homeless students succeed.

Outreach founder, Eric Howard said the group empowers at-risk young people through mentoring, meals, transportation assistance and more.

“[Homeless students] operate in fear. They operate in a profound amount of distrust and our case managers are able to break down barriers, walk with them [and] journey with them in order to help them reach this goal and not give up,” Howard said.

Recent Pike High School graduate Syretha Shirley benefited from Outreach’s services after moving to Indiana from Las Vegas.

The 18-year-old has been without a stable home life since the age of 11 when her great-grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Since that time, she has stayed in 11 different homes and attended eight schools in two states. Shirley’s school social worker paired her with a host family during her senior year at Pike.

“It’s just a blessing to have a place that you can call or go to whenever you’re in need and if they can help, they will,” Shirley said of Outreach. “I’m just grateful to have my inner circle, different people that care about me; extended family, I will call it because family’s who you make it.”

Shirley received a full ride to Indiana State University from the Lilly Endowment and has planned to study social work.

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