What It’s Like To Be A Homeless Student At LA’s Richest Private High School

Yun Kang, Guest Writer, Huffington Post, March 1st, 2018

It’s 5 a.m. The phone alarm blares, vibrating every little crevice of the car my family is forced to call home. It’s still pitch black outside, but the clock is ticking. We have exactly two hours to find another place to park our car and sneak in a shower at a public swimming center before I have to hop on the bus in time to make it to my first-period class.

“Home” was never supposed to be this way. In fact, when my family first moved across the state to Los Angeles, we lived comfortably in a cozy house. But that only lasted a few months before both of my parents unexpectedly lost their jobs. Before I could fully process what was happening, we were evicted and forced to scour the internet for cheap Airbnb rentals and temporary housing. Our family van became “home” after we exhausted our housing options and emergency funds.

When I step off the bus and through the gates of my school, I feel like I’ve entered another world. Students are draped with designer clothes and bags I’ve only seen in magazines. Parents arrive in cars that are worth more than entire houses in the neighborhood where my family lived before we took up residence in our vehicle. My private high school’s tuition price is nearly double my parents’ yearly salaries combined. The extravaganza of wealth on casual display is stunning.

When my family decided to move, I had no idea I would be attending a private high school. At the lower-income public school I used to attend, we even mocked students at the nearby private school for being pretentious. But I felt disappointed after visiting the LA Unified high school I was supposed to attend, and since I was in a new city hundreds of miles from home, I felt I had nothing to lose by seeking out other opportunities. As I was researching public magnet and charter schools, I was surprised to find that many private schools in the area offered generous financial aid. I applied, and was shocked when I was granted a full scholarship to the private high school I attend today.

It’s nice to be at school and play pretend, but my fantasy of being a Beverly Hills socialite is always cut short when the bell rings at the end of the school day. My Cinderella fairy tale is over and it’s time to go “home” ― to a dented van overcrowded with family members and reeking of unfamiliar stenches in a dark corner of a parking lot.

Privilege only runs so deep. As I get closer to my friends, the more I’m able to acknowledge the different set of obstacles they face.

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