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Conference Focuses on Homeless Children

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Rachel Kindell got kicked out of her house when she was in high school, then spent the next couple of years sleeping in her car or staying on friends’ couches.

“I didn’t really think I was going to graduate from high school,” she recalled.

But with the help of an Albuquerque Public Schools homeless program called Title I, she pulled her grades up, graduated from West Mesa High School and got 13 scholarships to go to college.

Now 22 years old and on schedule to graduate from the University of New Mexico in the spring, Kindell spoke at a national conference on homelessness that began Sunday in Albuquerque.

The conference, held by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, brings together more than 900 individuals who work with homeless children in schools, shelters and community agencies. An estimated 6,000 APS students don’t have homes.

It’s the first time that the conference is being held in Albuquerque. Gov. Susana Martinez will speak at the conference today at noon.

On Sunday night, 15 high school students or recent graduates from New York to Montana received scholarships of $2,000 to attend college. Five other students got scholarships of $1,000.

Kindell won one of the scholarships in 2008.

She got kicked out of her house, she said, when she got into an argument with her mother’s boyfriend in 2006.

“Not because I was doing anything bad, but just because I didn’t have anyone to believe in me or support me,” she said.

She said she was too proud to talk to counselors about being homeless in high school, even after a coach noticed she was showering in the locker rooms and falling asleep in the gym.

Staff members from the APS Title I Homeless Program stepped in and gave her a backpack full of school supplies. They encouraged her to apply for college scholarships, and the one she received from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth was her first.

She is on track to get a degree in criminology and a minor in psychology in May. If so, she will graduate in four years with no loan debt.

“Even after I got the scholarships, there were times I didn’t have a place to live. Through my whole high school, I was homeless. I went into UNM being homeless. I just want to say it’s still possible,” Kindell said to a standing ovation at the conference.
— This article appeared on page A6 of the Albuquerque Journal

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