Homeless to Harvard

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Debbie Robertson started the Women’s Transitional Housing Program at 360 Youth Services ten years ago. In that time, the program has served 143 girls.

And Robertson says every girl in the program has read Liz Murray’s book “Breaking Night.”

360 Youth Services brought Murray, who grew up homeless during her high school years, to Naperville to tell her inspiring tale.

“I think what we’re trying to do tonight is talk about resiliency,” said Robertson. “And how we can overcome things and we can develop hope and continue to carry on despite having difficult circumstances.”

Murray detailed her story growing up as the daughter of drug addicts in the Bronx, sleeping on subway cars and friend’s couches, before being accepted into the Humanities Preparatory Academy in Manhattan.

After graduating high school in two years, she was accepted into Harvard University and earned a scholarship from “The New York Times”.

Several young people currently using 360 Youth Services’ attended the event, hoping to find connection between Murray’s and their own stories.

“Coming to this program, I feel like I’ve gotten hope and I’m getting help on how to rent an apartment or own a home,” said Isis Monae. “And I’m getting insight on that and I really feel grateful for this program, I really do.”

Murray was insistent however, that she didn’t do it through hard work alone, and without help from others, she never would have gotten out of the Bronx.

“We live in a world as homeless youth and we wonder ‘does anybody really care about us?’” Murray said. “’Has society forgotten about us? Can I make a better life?’ You being here tonight is the answer to a question and a prayer for the young people around you and you are holding them up to be their greatest possibility.”

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.