FRAMINGHAM -- For Amber Pierre and Gwendoline Ghosso, dorm life takes on a new meaning. Both young women live at Framingham State University during the school year and all year round.
That is because Pierre and Ghosso are ambitious, hardworking, and homeless.
"I'm a first-generation college has just always been a thing that I wanted to do just because of the fact that I wanted better for myself and my family," Ghosso said.
Their paths to homelessness are similar. Both young women say they grew up in one-parent immigrant homes. Pierre left her home after disagreements with her mother, an immigrant from Haiti.
"The parents don't really understand what you're going through in college," Pierre said.
Ghosso said her mother, an immigrant from the African country of Cameroon, kicked her out after her high school graduation.
Both had previous plans to go to college. They became involved in a state scholarship program offering housing and a meal plan to homeless students.
Pierre started her studies in business at MassBay Community College and then transferred to Framingham State. Ghosso is working towards a degree in ultrasound and sonography. She is taking classes at MassBay and living at Framingham State.
On Thanksgiving week, Pierre and Ghosso watch their classmates go home but they stay behind.
"You know that everyone is going home to an open arm and welcoming home and you're not able to. It does hit you," Ghosso said.
But the larger stress is figuring out where they will live and what support they will get after they graduate from college.
"It's exciting but so nerve-wracking because you know each day is coming, the semester is about to be over, but you also have the overhanging thing over your head which is you need to find someplace to live," Pierre said.
It is difficult to measure how many college-aged students are homeless. Data may not include students who are couch-surfing or staying in university housing.
School on Wheels, a non-profit which helps provide tutoring to homeless students, serves 60 college-aged young people, said Katie Young, the organization's bridge mentoring program director.
Most if not all of those students worry about the cost of rent once they graduate.
"They are looking to get full-time jobs. Most of them have been working part-time through college. Once they actually get there and the housing prices, they're lucky if they can actually rent just one room," Young said.
Until then, students like Pierre and Ghosso lean on each other, during holidays and all the time.
Despite the stress of the future, they say they will not let it dampen their dreams.
"I wanted a degree so bad so I was never going to give up though. I was never going to give up. I was going to find a way. And I did," Ghosso said.
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