The power of education

We asked our staff, interns and volunteers to write about what motivates them in their work for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Their essays will be posted daily as we mark National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week.

By Patricia Nix-Hodes, Associate Director of the Law Project

The power of education . . . this is what motivates me in my work at CCH.

I grew up in a family that emphasized education. My parents were immigrants from Ireland and clearly saw the connection between a good education and opportunity. Navigating the educational system here – particularly the college process – was not familiar to my parents. But they always pushed my siblings and me to do our best in school and to challenge ourselves academically.  

Although I may not have realized it while I was growing up, I now also see clearly that education is critical to economic self-sufficiency and opportunity. During the 2010-11 school year, 42,800 students were identified as homeless by Illinois school districts, a 63% increase from the students identified three years earlier. Many more students are in homeless situations but are not yet identified by their schools.

Each of these students, along with their families, serve as powerful motivators for me.

The CCH Law Project works every day with students who lack housing, to ensure that our educational system works for them. From advocating for immediate enrollment, transportation, and other necessary services to representing families in dispute hearings to helping college students with a scholarship or financial aid, the goal is the same. Each child deserves a brighter future through access to a quality educational experience from early childhood through high school graduation and beyond.