Legal Fees for Homeless Student

I am a teacher at a small, college-prep high school in Southwest Santa Rosa.  I am working with an exceptional young man who needs help with legal fees in order to obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.  SIJS is federal protection that is offered to undocumented youth who have been in the USA since infancy and have suffered abuse and neglect.  The legal fees amount to $6000, and my colleagues and I are seeking outside assistance with meeting these fees. 

To read more about this phenomenal young man, please see below….  

My name is Kristen O’Connor and I am honored to be part of a group of dedicated teachers at Roseland University Prep High School in Southwest Santa Rosa, located in the heart of Sonoma County, California.  As a staff, we are blessed to work with incredibly dedicated and determined students, kids who inspire us each day to work harder and be stronger ourselves, so that they will in turn be inspired to do the same.  Many of our students on a daily basis face insecurity about food and shelter, abuse, addiction, deportation and more.

I’ve been teaching in Sonoma County for 30 years, and at Roseland University Prep for 14.  In that time I have met and worked with literally thousands of remarkable students and families.  That said, every year I am struck by a handful of kids whose life circumstances are especially daunting, yet they persevere, they SHOW UP, and they do the work, even when it seems hopeless.  When I tell them, as Theodore Roosevelt often said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” they listen.  When I tell them, as Winston Churchill said, “Never, ever, ever give up,” they listen.  Crazy as it often feels, they dare to believe, and they dare to keep trying.

During the course of the past year, I have found myself in a special situation with one exceptional young man. Homeless and undocumented, this boy has every reason to believe that the American Dream just doesn’t apply to someone like him.  Nevertheless, he has persisted, and has dared to believe in the future, even in his darkest moments.  When given stable housing and guidance during the middle of his sophomore year, his grades rose from Ds and Fs to Bs and As.  Last semester he earned Honor Roll, despite the fact that he had been living in the homes of eight different teachers over a six-month period.  Today, he awaits acceptance letters from the four colleges to which he applied.  Nevermind the fact that he’s not sure where he’ll be living between now and August, come August, he feels confident that he will have a bed and a closet and a meal plan in a dorm somewhere in Northern California.  

Because of my own family issues, I have been unable to provide stable housing for this young man myself.  Nevertheless, I have committed to doing what I can, which includes helping him navigate the legal system and obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.  This status will allow him to continue his education, earn his bachelor’s degree, and become a documented citizen who can work and live and give back appropriately to the country that has been his home since infancy.  The cost of this process is $6000.  From here, we must retain a lawyer in order to continue and finish everything before he turns 18.  As someone who earns 80% of a teacher’s salary because of health issues, I don’t have the funds to cover this. In the next three days, we need to put down a $500 retainer.  After that, we need to pay $250 per month [interest free!] until it is paid off.  How will this happen?  I’m not really sure, but I am choosing to believe that John Burroughs was right when he promised us to, “leap and the net will appear.”

Here we go---
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Kristen Sandor OConnor 
Santa Rosa, CA
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