Anthony Ross witnessed violence in his home as a child then ended up homeless as a teenager. He shared his story of perserverance as part of FYSB's event "Ending Youth Homelessness: A Call to Action" in October 2014.
Listen to Anthony's story here, then be sure to listen to the other youth speakers from the event, Jessica McCormick and Syncere St. Jamyz.
NCFY: Welcome to NCFY Voices, a podcast series from the family & youth services bureau.
Anthony Ross’s story is right there in the title of the memoir he recently published: Homeless at age 13 to a college graduate. Indeed, Anthony survived the death of loved ones, a traumatic home situation, and years on the street before emerging as an advocate and a law student. He shared his story with a national TV audience as part of FYSB’s event “Ending Youth Homelessness: A Call to Action,” held at the National Press Club in October 2014.
Here are his full remarks from the event.
ANTHONY ROSS: Good afternoon, everyone. I am Anthony Ross, a twenty-four-year-old African-American male. And my dream is to show the people of the world that they can become successful no matter the circumstances.
At age thirteen, I lost my grandmother, who was the sole caretaker, to heart disease. I never knew my dad and my mother was a drug addict. When I lived with my mom after my grandmother’s death, she had my sisters and I living in a house with no water, heat and electricity for months due to her drug use. My mother’s attempt to take care of my sisters and me only lasted nine months. We ran out of the house one night when she tried to murder us with the meat cleaver.
My sisters and I were separated as they went to live with their father’s family, while I ended up homeless sleeping in cars and homeless shelters in Washington, D.C.
My mother’s sisters tried to take care of me, but could not. One tried to hit me with a frying pan because she was always stressed out. And the other was an alcoholic who threw my clothes out of her apartment, and then threw my birth certificate and Social Security card in my face stating that she no longer wanted to take care of me.
I then began living with strangers. They were a family of thirteen who lived in a two-bedroom, one bathroom, Section 8 apartment in Southeast, Washington D.C. They would not allow me to get food from the refrigerator. And when I found out that they were getting food stamps and welfare benefits using my name, I was beat up and kicked out of the house. I had no choice but to return back to the homeless shelter.
I always had to watch my back and protect my belongings because different people will sleep in the shelter throughout the night. I wanted to go to high school so bad, but I could not because I needed to feed and clothe myself at such a young age. I was able to enroll into a GED program at age sixteen, while I worked at Starbucks during the daytime and Ruby Tuesday at night. After I earned my GED, I then began to prepare for the SAT exams because I wanted to go to college. I stayed up until three or four in the morning teaching myself algebra, trigonometry, logarithms and geometry by watching YouTube videos and had tutors come up to the shelter to tutor me.
After I was accepted to St. Augustus University in 2009, in North Carolina, I spent four to six hours a day in the library studying in the syllabus and earned a 4.0 GPA my freshman year. [applause] Thank you.
Because I was overlooked in the foster care system, I was never assigned a foster family. I was housed and invited to eat Thanksgiving dinners and spent Christmases with my friends and mentors when the campus closed down for holiday breaks because I had nowhere to go.
While I was in college, I was inducted into the Alpha Kappa Nu National Honor Society and Pi Gamma Nu International Honor Society with Social Sciences. I was on the President’s and Dean’s list since freshman year. And out of all political science majors in the university, I won a department award.
I served three years in the student government association and was elected student body president of the university my junior year. I interned for the Mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty. This was a seminal experience that exposed me to politics and enhanced my professionalism in the workplace where he and President Obama performed several initiatives together which I was able to see firsthand.
I served as a guest speaker at the British Embassy and was one out of fifteen homeless students in the United States chosen to attend a scholarship conference on behalf of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. The fifteen of us not only shared our stories in front of over 700 policymakers to decrease youth homelessness in America, but we also built a bond of a family that we never had.
Our efforts helped draft a bill to Congress for a homelessness youth act before we received awards on Capitol Hill from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. On May 5, 2013, I graduated magna cum laude in the top percentile of my graduating class and department. I am now aspiring to become an attorney and later run for political office.
According to my Instagram, over 100,000 people across the world, including from Australia; Oslo, Norway; Singapore and England have urged me to write my autobiography, “Homeless at Age Thirteen to a College Graduate,” that was recently published on Amazon.com in hopes of helping others achieve their goals despite the adversities that life may bring.
Please not only support me by purchasing a copy of my autobiography [laughter], “Homeless at Age Thirteen to a College Graduate”, but also share it with your family and friends to help someone else in need. It is important that we keep funding youth homelessness programs to help others succeed, such as I was able to. Thank you and God bless. [applause]
NCFY: For more information on helping homeless youth become advocates, and to hear our previous podcast featuring Anthony Ross, visit the National Clearinghouse on Families & youth, online at ncfy.acf.hhs.gov