The Story Behind Los Angeles Nonprofit Homeless To Higher Ed

Amidst the hub of classes in American K-12 schools, there are students who, unknown to their peers and teachers, are homeless. They look and behave just like the countless other students in the public school system, but unlike them, they have no "home" to go to at the end of the school day. They live in shelters, motel rooms, and cars, yet the reality of homelessness does not consume their existence. 

That was the life Jessica Sutherland experienced during high school, but despite the many challenges, she eventually beat the odds and got her college degree. But the road to college was one of twists and turns.

After being accepted to Cleveland State University (CSU), Jessica started out with much zeal and big dreams. She fully embraced college life, and not only got good grades. She was a cheerleader for the basketball team, as well as a mid-distance runner, and had a team of support personnel that helped her stay focused on her academics while she participated in sports.

However, all of that changed when she moved off campus after her sophomore year. That decision left her in the throes of uncertainty when a roommate bailed on her, and the rent became onerous. She started working longer hours in order to meet her increased financial obligations, but that meant cutting back on classes. 

Despite her best efforts to keep up, she eventually had to drop out of college. Since the support and encouragement she needed was no longer there, it would be five years before she got back to college.

When she eventually resumed CSU it was a lot more expensive, but she was older, wiser, and determined to succeed this time around. She continued working and used grants and loans to help pay her tuition. After finishing up her degree at CSU, she went on to the University of Southern California (USC), where she received her master's in fine arts.

A big part of Jessica's mission is now to help other homeless kids, and so she has set up a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization Homeless to Higher Ed to help others realize their college dream. 

Further reading: The Secret Lives Of Homeless Students