College Degrees Top Homeless Students' Holiday Wish Lists

By Catherine Groux
Posted December 17, 2012 12:00 PM

Many homeless students hope for a bachelor's degree for the holidays.
Many homeless students hope for a bachelor's degree for the holidays.
Although many students struggle to pay for college, some individuals face a more challenging set of obstacles as they strive to balance homelessness and higher education. In the 2010-2011 school year, more than 33,000 students across the country identified themselves as homeless on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, The Palm Beach Post reports, and some professionals speculate this problem is growing.

As the holidays approach, many of these homeless students have only one thing on their wish list - a bachelor's degree

Taking it One Day at a Time

While growing up in Minnesota, now 29-year-old Sam Little Cloud desperately fled his home filled with alcoholics and drug addicts, going in and out of foster homes, shelters and juvenile centers, the Pioneer Press report. During his youth, Little Cloud did not think he would ever find stability, never mind have the chance to pursue a college degree.

However, with a great deal of hard work and determination, Little Cloud earned his GED and later enrolled in Augsburg College, where he is pursuing a bachelor's degree in social work. While going to college was always a dream of his, things are far from easy for Little Cloud.

The Minneapolis man currently works at McDonald's, but as this does not give him enough money to pay his bills, he frequently donates plasma. When he does not have enough money to take the bus to school, Little Cloud walks a mile to Augsburg College, even though he does not have a winter coat.

"Sam's road has been a hard one, yet he continues and he perseveres with resilience to show his family that no matter what you go through, no matter what you are faced with, you can make your life what you want," Phillip Spence, a student representative at the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center, told the Pioneer Press.

When Little Cloud finally earns his bachelor's degree, he hopes to use his education to help others by opening his own shelter for Native American youths.

Striving to Help Others in Need

Florida's Nikki Maclaren, now 18, has found herself in a similar situation as Little Cloud, The Palm Beach Post reports. When she graduated from high school in May as a homeless student, Maclaren received an acceptance letter from the University of Central Florida.

Although she initially wondered how she could afford college, she is using financial aid and scholarships to pay for a good portion of her education. What she cannot pay for she is taking out student loans to cover, and she has joined the Army National Guard to repay those loans.

Currently, Maclaren is thinking about earning a bachelor's degree in public administration, hoping she can use her education to work with nonprofits and assist children in need. Although she still faces many challenges, she uses her high school diploma as inspiration to complete college.

"It's an accomplishment," she told the Post. "Right now, it's one of the few, but it's going to get bigger."

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