On Saturday May 9, Kenneth Chancey walked across the stage at Loyola Marymount University, overcoming tremendous obstacles to receive his degree.
Homeless at age 11, Chancey’s future appeared bleak. At ages 14 and 15, while transitioning from foster care, Chancey had no home and had to sleep on the city buses of Los Angeles.
“That was my lowest point, not having anywhere to go and just saying, ‘We’re sleeping on the bus,’” Chancey told ABC News.
Things changed for the better when Chancey, along with his father and sister, moved into Skid Row’s Union Rescue Mission homeless shelter at the age of 15. It was there that Chancey’s resilient spirit and determination shined.
Chancey attended high school while living at the shelter, working hard to achieve a 4.0 GPA, according to the Huffington Post. He was an active student, participating in his school’s varsity track, swim, and football teams.
Chancey’s hard work got him attention from those around him.
“The journey from living in a van, going to school with the same set of clothes every day, feeling really bad about life, and yet he never gave up,” Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, told ABC7 News.
Chancey received some college scholarships, allowing him to attend Loyola Marymount University. Reflecting on his experience, Chancey shared, “I climbed here bare-handed. And yes it was harder than most people who are given resources [and] parental support. But it’s not impossible.”
Kenny Chancey received his degree in political science. He hopes to use his experience to challenge stereotypes about the homeless and their capabilities.
“We hear perpetuated stereotypes that the homeless are mentally ill or mentally unstable, but there’s families on Skid Row, and there are families that need support. Sometimes it’s not that people don’t want to exit Skid Row, it’s people don’t have the means and the opportunity to,” said Chancey.
Chancey will spend this summer working at the Inner City Arts summer camp, an organization that helps students in Los Angeles’s poorest neighborhoods excel academically and achieve their personal goals.
Chancey will give back to his community, showing these students that it is possible for them to achieve success.