Homework without a home: making the grade

BOISE - For most kids, success at school starts at home and coming to class prepared to learn.

But for some kids, there is no home, making an already challenging situation that much more stressful.

KBOI 2News found a Treasure Valley student who despite being homeless for years, is taking responsibility for his own future.

The day starts early for 10-year-old Andrew Dale.

He gets a ride from Boise's City Light Shelter to Meridian, to attend Cole Valley Christian School.

Andrew has been without a permanent home for grades one through four.

It's been rough, and makes him angry.

"When I get stressed out, I usually go into my room and punch a pillow or scream into a pillow," he said during an interview at the Rescue Mission's computer lab, where students get help with homework after school.

For the first three years of Andrew's education, emotion spilled over into the classroom.

"I used to be fighting with my teachers sometimes and not turning in assignments," he said.

Andrew and his two siblings escaped a domestic violence situation and he said his mother also battled drugs.

The only place they could find for a home was temporary - at City Light.

With dozens of families seeking shelter there, for years, Andrew had to figure out a way to get his homework done each night.

So, Andrew got creative.

"When the place started getting noisy, I usually would go to a place that was really quiet, but if that place got noisy, I would go to the bathroom and do my homework," he said.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that Idaho has seen a 40 percent increase in homeless students since 2009.

During the 2011 academic year, that was more than 6,000 students, and experts say, that lack of home stability causes their grades to lag.

"When these kids show up, they're coming in below par, they're coming in, a lot of them haven't been to school, because they're being pulled away," said Megan Korthals, manager of community relations for the Boise Rescue Mission Ministries.

But Andrew has never given up.

He signed up for the shelter's homework club, still takes part in a rewards program for good grades, and his grades are going up.

"Actually, all of them have gone up except one," he said. "One stayed a C. They all have gone up."

Andrew is not shy about his struggles and talks openly at Cole Valley Christian.

And he's not afraid to lean on friends.

"When I get distracted, I ask someone to come over and help me," he said.

Andrew's scholastic progress makes his mother want to do better.

"They gave me something to strive for," Michelle Dale said. "And so now, the better they do, it just reassures that I'm doing better so it makes we want to keep going."

Andrew now realizes there's a purpose to school and to life.

"Me getting a college degree and a good job maybe," Andrew said.

He said he'll get there one way or another.

The U. S. Department of Education reports that homeless students represent less than 1 percent of the state's total student population.

But here in Idaho, the DOE reports the Gem State ranks eighth for states who student homelessness grew by more than 20 percent in a single year.