Two and a half million American children are homeless, yet many of them are still trying to stay in school. The Homestretch on PBS tells the story of three such determined youngsters, Anthony, Kasey and Roque, a trio of remarkable Chicago teenagers who despite being poor and homeless refuse to give up on their right to an education. What these kids were and are willing to go through to get a high school degree and more is not just a tale of courage and determination, it is also a story that asks the question: if homeless kids haven’t given up on the American dream, what excuse can other teens in better circumstances give for dropping out of school?
Many homeless children not only do not have a regular place to stay, they also do not have parents or other adults to watch out for them. They live on the street, spend nights in shelters or, if they are especially lucky, make a friend who lets them stay on their couch for at least a few days a week. As The Homestretch shows, the more fortunate kids find their way into temporary housing in church-sponsored youth shelters or in teen living programs like that at Chicago’s Belfort House, but space, like resources, is limited.
The three children profiled in The Homestretch are among the more fortunate of Chicago’s homeless kids. Kasey, for example, found a space in a transitional home. Before that, however, she spent many nights sleeping on the street. She had to drop out for a while but is now back in school pursuing her dream of becoming a poet and a painter. Roque found support from teachers who helped him finish high school and get into college, where he is studying theater and psychology. Anthony was in foster homes until he was 14, was on his own for several years but thanks to the Year Up Chicago Program now has an internship in telecommunications. Filmmakers Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly hope that telling the stories of these three students will spur other cities, communities and school systems to reach out to help other homeless children, and give them the chance to get the education they need and deserve.
The film is part of the American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen project, a public media initiative program supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The Homestretch is part of the Independent Lens series and will premiere on most PBS stations at 10 pm Eastern Time, Monday, April 13. Although Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) has not yet announced an air date, Connecticut viewers with access to WGBH 2 Boston and WNET New York can watch The Homestretch when it debuts on April 13.
Mark G. McLaughlin is a journalist, novelist, historian and game designer. Mark has had 17 games published, including his most recent Rebel Raiders of the High Seas by GMT Games (http://www.gmtgames.com/p-238-rebel-raiders-on-the-high-seas.asp)x. His science fiction novel, Princess Ryan’s Star Marines, can be found on Amazon and Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/Princess-Ryans-Star-Marines-Save/dp/1466218487/ref…. ).