“I wanted to be able to live like a normal kid,” said Liyjon DeSilva. “But I slept at parks. My favorite was sleeping in parking lots because I could see the stars in the sky.”
For Liyjon’s first three years of high school, he lived on the streets. With his mother having died when he was five, his father out of the picture, and other relatives having taken advantage of his social security benefits, he was abandoned with no money, no home and no one to care for him. But he still showed up to class at Wisdom High School, formerly Lee High School.
Luckily, Liyjon would soon find support from Communities In Schools (CIS). When a friend took Liyjon to meet Jessica Smith, CIS Project Manager on campus, she immediately recognized his intellect and determination at school. However, along with his potential, Liyjon had a world of unmet needs. Jessica found him resources such as food, clothes, bus passes, toiletries, and eventually a stable place to stay.
Liyjon was wary of CIS’ help in the beginning, “I didn’t trust her (Ms. Smith) at first, but she kept chasing me just trying to figure out what was going on, and how she could help. Once I finally opened up to her, things started to change for the better.”
Jessica agrees, “Once he (Liyjon) was able to recollect himself, he began to blossom. He didn’t have to worry about his safety and was able to sleep and eat in a warm environment. He was finally able to be a normal teenager.”
With Jessica’s help, Liyjon applied for colleges in his senior year and began to plan for a brighter future that did not involve living on the streets. He took the SAT and scored among the top of his class! Along with his 3.67 GPA, which put him in the top 5% of his class, a teacher nominated him for the Posse Foundation Scholarship, which could earn him a full-ride to Carleton College, a small liberal arts college in the northwest.
With the scholarship looming as a possibility, Jessica helped Liyjon complete the forms and paperwork, meet deadlines, shop for interview clothes, and drove him to interviews. Liyjon said, “Without Ms. Smith, I would have never accepted help from anybody. Everyone needs help, everyone needs love. She’s been like a mother figure to me.”
All of Liyjon’s hard work and perseverance paid off. He won a full scholarship to Carleton College from the Posse Foundation. Liyjon said, “CIS was very instrumental in turning my life around…Once I won the scholarship, I truly realized I can do this. My impossible turned into ‘I’m possible.'”
After spending the summer interning at CIS’ central office, Liyjon is now off to a positive start as a freshman at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.
In 121 Houston area schools, CIS serves students at greatest risk of dropping out of school. Whether a student is depressed, hungry, without shelter, or their teeth hurt, any and all barriers affecting their lives outside the classroom will affect their ability to succeed academically.
But we have the power to change that. Click here to donate. Your money will directly fund Project Managers on the school campus like Jessica who do whatever it takes to empower students like Liyjon to stay in school and achieve in life.