Alexis climbs from homelessness to the Ivy League

young woman aided by Crosswalk and its scholarship program

From the first moment she even dreamed of going to college, "Alexis" thought about Frederick Douglas. 

“He was an uneducated black man from a welfare household and he made so much of himself.” It planted a seed that she could do the same. 

Seventeen and homeless, Alexis came to Crosswalk to get her feet on the ground but she didn't expect to find people like her case worker, Heidi Peterson, who saw her potential and encouraged her to reach for an education. 

“Not only did I receive a roof over my head,” recalls Alexis. “I also received a new path to follow in life.”

“Heidi always told me that I could do anything. She believed in me and helped me find my way—she taught me to believe in myself. Through the help I received from Volunteers of America, both emotional support and financial, I was able to start a new life.”

After spending a year at Spokane Community College Alexis received a Trent-Gillespie Scholarship that allowed her to attend the University of Pennsylvania—making her not only the first person in her family to attend college, but the first Crosswalk kid to get an education at an Ivy League school.

But getting there was only half the battle. "As a woman of color, I feel like I’ve have had to work twice as hard in academics in order to prove myself to the world.”

And prove herself she did. Despite her difficult background and the added challenge of a learning disability, Alexis excelled—consistently on the Dean’s List. She also worked part time at a nonprofit, serving others with barriers to receiving an education. 

It wasn’t easy, “The academics here are tough and everyone is very smart so you have to believe in your own abilities in order to do well,” she wrote to us in one of her early semesters. 

At times it was a lonely climb. She went to school every summer and spent the holidays studying alone in her room. But our scholarship committee was right there behind her, sending treats, Christmas cards and notes now and then.

“There were times I wanted to give up and just crawl in a hole. I would read their encouraging notes and begin to cry because they believe in me and my abilities. I’d remember my dream of becoming an adoption attorney, to help the Alexis’s of the world, who just need someone to believe in them. I keep going for those who I will be able to help when I am finished.”

In her final year of school the scholarship committee paid for her LSAT prep course, preparing for her dream of becoming an adoption attorney. Alexis participated in commencement on May of 2009, will receive her Bachelor’s Degree in Classical Studies at the end of the summer and has been accepted to one of the top law schools in the country in fall 2009.

“I have learned that nothing is set in stone in this life and through careful diligence and hard work you can overcome any challenge,” says Alexis. 

“I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to go to school. It is your charity and love for street kids that helped me get where I am today. May God bless you for touching the lives of kids who everyone has given up on. I can’t wait to use what you’ve given me to help others find the same new start in life that Crosswalk and the Trent-Gillespie Scholarship Committee helped me to find.”