Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Transitional students - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Transitional students

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By Ursula Madden - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Every time a child changes schools in the middle of the school year, they end up six months behind in their studies.

Now consider that one in three Memphis City School students changes school each school year.  They're called transitional students, and as many as 1,700 of them are homeless.

It's been a rough year for 11-year-old Terri, who sometimes uses poetry to express her feelings.  Since January, Terri, her 14-year-old brother Devon, 17-year-old sister Angie, and their mother Katyana, have been sharing two rooms at a Memphis shelter.

We are not identifying the children fully to protect their identities

Their mother doesn't like to call the family's living quarters a homeless shelter.
 
"I don't call it a shelter, because that is such a negative word to me," Katyana said. "I call it the honeycomb hideout."

The family came to the honeycomb hideout after Katyana spent nearly a year in jail for bouncing a check.  While in jail, Katyana lost her job, apartment, her car, and something else:
  
"When I got incarcerated, I lost my kids - mentally not physically, but mentally, I think I lost them," she said.

The children stayed with their grandmother until Katyana got out of prison in October 2008.

"When my momma came home after she was in jail, we transferred and move down here to Memphis family shelter and went to the school that was closest to the shelter," Terri said.

It was Vance Middle, and then later, Booker T Washington.  For Terri, the stigma attached to being homeless is overwhelming, and the attacks from fellow classmates can be cruel.

"She wanted to fight every day," Katyana said. "Every time someone says something negative she wanted to fight."

"They kept on asking me, 'You live in a shelter? Girl you poor, and I have more things than you,'" Terri said. "They were saying they had more things than me, and they were bringing me down and stuff."

When the situation became too much to bear, Terri changed schools again - the third time this school year.

"I feel like my kids, their education, is all they've got right now," Katyana said.

But, Katyana isn't alone in all this.  Memphis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash believes he has a solution for transitional students.

In the weeks ahead, Taking Back Our Neighborhoods will tell you all about his proposal help these kids catch up.

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