As we look at the impact on education, post-pandemic, we’ve sought out the student’s point of view. Brianna Ferguson, a senior from Peekskill, NY, shared her experiences as part of the Student Journalism Challenge produced by PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs and powered by the XQ Institute. This is a student’s story about housing. Brianna shared her story after realizing that she may not be returning to Peekskill High School for her senior year because her family had to find a new place to live.
How has your family been impacted the pandemic?
All across America rent has increased within the past few years at an unstable rate. Working families are struggling to make ends meet with the new rent increase, especially in New York. Residents of Peekskill and the surrounding areas have also been having issues with finding housing, especially apartments, for an affordable price.
My parents and I have been living in Peekskill in the same apartment for more than eight years. I’m a senior at Peekskill High School and I plan to go to college after I graduate. I’ve been involved in the school and my community as a member of numerous clubs and an honor society. I am a student athlete where I play flag football and I am on the high honor roll.
My mom works at ShopRite in Mohegan Lake as a deli clerk. She’s been providing most of our household income because my dad has been disabled for over 15 years. He was a union construction worker until he got injuries to his back and neck from lifting heavy objects. When 9/11 happened, he went to the buildings and helped clean up the dust and fragments. He became sick and needed minor surgeries to his nose because of all of the toxins and dust he breathed in. He now has COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Because of those circumstances, we had no choice but to apply for Section 8 to help with our housing costs. We have had Section 8 ever since we moved to Peekskill, but before that we lived in Yonkers waiting years to get accepted into the Section 8 program. Section 8 helps a lot of families in lower income homes, but moving can be difficult. We have been actively looking for an apartment in Peekskill since June when our landlord informed us he wants to sell the condo we currently live in.
How has your housing situation affected your education?
The timing of this moving process could not be worse because this is my last year at a school where I have known all of my friends for years. I have thought about my senior year ever since I was a freshman. During my junior year, I thought a lot about continuing to play flag football, going to the prom and graduating with my friends. But now this may not happen.
We have looked at a few places in Peekskill and the surrounding areas but haven’t been able to find a two-bedroom apartment because landlords are reluctant to take a Section 8 tenant.
The end of September is the target date for us to move. We’re hoping for a miracle.
The Forbes.com Well Beings Blog is a series that addresses critical topics around the health, mental health, and well-being of America’s youth and adults. The blog launched in 2020 as a companion to the Well Beings Youth Mental Health Project and Ken Burns Presents Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness, A Film by Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers (PBS.org/plainsight |WellBeings.org/plainsight), which is now streaming on the PBS app. #WellBeings #WellBeingsLive
The current series of articles addresses creativity, resilience, and well-being among America’s youth. It is part of the Student Journalism Challenge produced by PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs and powered by the XQ Institute. The challenge celebrates young people’s creative expression, encouraging students ages 13-18 to tell their own stories of their communities and their education by contributing print, video, and audio pieces on the theme, “My Education, My Future.” Submissions were evaluated by a diverse roster of professional journalists.
The Forbes.com Well Beings Blog “Student Journalism Challenge” series features winning articles and honorable mentions in the print category.