Every day, the Dallas Independent School District works with several students who are homeless. Despite the struggles of those students outside the classroom, many of them are excelling in it.
Teara Gaines, 17, is one of those students. She's not only overcoming unimaginable odds, she's blazing a trail while doing it.
Gaines is a senior at Townview's School of Business and Management.
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Just a few years ago, she was depressed and suicidal while dealing with an internal struggle.
"It was just really hard to want to accept who you are, because that's how you feel on the inside. But, you want to change because nobody else wants to accept it," she said.
Teara recently told her parents she's gay, and in May she found herself homeless.
"It was just really emotional and draining and hard to deal with that," she said.
Teara shuffled from place to place, and she would often stay with friends and their families.
The Dallas ISD and its Homeless Education Program stepped in to help. It provided Teara with a psychologist and a paying on-campus job, which she works in addition to her full load of Advanced Placement course work.
Throughout her struggles, one thing was constant: her writing.
Teara is a writer and a poet with scores of poems written on everything from notebook paper to her cell phone. Her poems are about her struggles, meaning many of them are painful.
But, in true literary fashion, she's turned that pain into a way to help others.
"One thing I love about my poetry club is that we grow to be a family," Teara said.
She created a poetry group at her school. It's a way of reaffirming her own voice and growing her talents and at the same time allowing others to find their voices.
"I'm not the only person going through this," she said. "If I want to be heard, somebody else wants to be heard. If I'm willing to listen to them, maybe they'll be willing to listen to me."
Now, Teara is staying with a friend's family. With the money she makes from her on-campus job, she's offering rent money and supporting herself.
When asked how she hopes people will react when they hear her story, Teara had this to say.
"I want them to say, 'Wow! What a strong girl. Look at what she's done and look at how she's OK. If she can do it, anybody out there who is going through something can do it. It's going to be OK,'" she said.
To learn more about the Dallas ISD Homeless Education Program visit the Dallas ISD website.