I’m in college, and I’m homeless

Aquinas College: Provide safe housing for foster and homeless students during break periods, especially during the cold winter monthsAs an unaccompanied homeless youth, there were many barriers to getting into (and staying in!) college. Now that I’m lucky enough to be in my senior year at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I’m about to face another challenge this winter break: I’ll have nowhere to go when campus housing shuts down for winter break.Because I was a homeless youth when I was finishing high school, college was a goal that I was not sure I would ever reach. Sure, I had thought about it, and knew that continuing my education post high school was one of the greatest keys to building a future for myself. I was excited when I was able to apply for and was accepted to a small college in my city, Aquinas College. While there were many challenges, with the help of a great organization in my community, Arbor Circle, I was able to secure on-campus housing and started at Aquinas College in the fall of 2010.

Since then, there have been numerous obstacles faced and countless challenges overcome. But one of the main barriers remains: housing. One of the most tricky situations for foster and homeless students in college is what to do for break periods. Conceded, this is also a difficult situation for schools. Aquinas College provides opportunities to rent on-campus apartments during the summer months, and allows international students and in-season athletes to maintain their housing over fall and spring breaks. However, homeless and foster students are not included in the spring and fall allowances, and are left without options for the two-to-three week period during Michigan‘s cold winters.

Colleges across the country have combatted the issue of break housing in multiple ways. Some have chosen to keep one housing unit open for the break to provide shelter to these students. This cuts down on the utility use for the college, and is one of many ways that the college could ensure safe and stable housing for a very vulnerable group of students throughout the year. Last year, I spent part of my winter break sleeping outside on campus and I know that I don’t want to face the same experience again this year — and I’m sure there are other students who also fear the same.

As a senior, I am anticipating to graduate this upcoming May with a double major in Sociology and Community Leadership. I have overcome many challenges, and cannot wait to dance across the stage in celebration of the work that I have done. However, it is my greatest hope that students who are in situations similar to mine, including several freshman with whom I share a dorm currently, are alleviated of this one major barrier during their college years. Plus, there are thousands of other students — some who are homeless, some who were in foster care, others who have lost their parents or guardians — who are also affected by this issue across the country. I am so proud to be an Aquinas College Saint, will be even more proud to be an Aquinas College Alum, and would be so beyond grateful if my Saints would put forth the effort to show that they are proud and supportive of students like me, as well.

Thanks for signing my petition, and as always– GO SAINTS!
~Jessie McCormick


How a simple invention is helping improve daily life for tens of thousands of people

By: Matt Collister


The humble, plastic water bottle. It’s something most of us take for granted—something we quickly use and toss without a second thought.

But this symbol of our disposable, consumer culture has become a ray of light, literally, for people in impoverished areas of the world.

These are areas like the densely-populated slums of Manilla, where corrugated steel shacks are built practically on top of one another. People live without the basics we take for granted, like interior lighting. Even during the day, the lack of lighting in a home can make living a challenge.

A simple invention, easily replicated

An open-source movement called Liter of Light—spearheaded by an organization called MyShelter—is working to change that. It’s inspiring lighting projects in a variety of areas of the developing world using a ridiculously simple design.

The concept traces back to a student project at M.I.T. aimed at designing “appropriate technologies” for communities in need. “Appropriate” just means it has to be simple and easy to replicate in those communities.

The design: Fill a 1.5 liter clear plastic (PET) water bottle with a solution of water and chlorine. Slide the bottle into a metal base. Install the base into a hole cut in a home’s roof. Use sealant to make the whole thing weatherproof.

The portion of the bottle sticking out of the house “catches” and diffuses the sun’s rays through the portion of the bottle inside the house. (The water is the medium; the chlorine is there just to prevent mildew from forming.)

The result is a light that brightens a room with the intensity of a 55-watt bulb. Built and installed properly, the environmentally-friendly “bulb” will produce free light for about five years.

And true to the spirit of appropriate technologies, bottle lights are easy and inexpensive to make. The instructions are available online for anyone to access.

A million points of cheap, sustainable light

Liter of Light began in the Philippines in 2011, and today is helping illuminate more than 28,000 homes in that country. Its goal is to help light a million homes by the end of 2015.

To make a donation, get involved or just learn more, check out http://aliteroflight.org/index.php.


Nativegrl77:  I read and reread this and while I love that this is a safe affordable sustainable way to light up an impoverished home …

I would love it even better if the grid/infrastructure needed was finally put into place for Solar and or Wind … so, not only can there be light but indoor heat indoor cooking  for the impoverished