The Long Stretch Home


Courtesy of Kartemquin Films

Roque Sanchez in “The Homestretch.”

Crystal Perez

Violence, drugs and abuse are only a few of the problems that homeless youth in Chicago deal with, all while trying to obtain their education.

On October 8th, the Angelina Pedroso Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs presented a screening and panel discussion for “The Homestretch,” a documentary that shows the very real and very frightening reality of homeless youth in Chicago. It follows three young high school students with aspirations towards success and ultimately permanent solace. The three students featured were Roque Sanchez, Kasey, and Anthony, the last name of all students was not provided.

When the piece was filmed three years ago, they were on their way to high school completion.

The film begins with Sanchez, a Latino student being housed by one of his compassionate teachers Maria Rivera. Rivera has a long history of housing students when encountering a problematic living situation. As Sanchez suffered through family, school, and work issues, he also faced the challenge of being undocumented. While also dealing with a broken leg, Sanchez was able to complete his high school career regardless of the challenges.

Rivera supported Sanchez every step of the way and, by coincidence, was familiar with Dr. Libretti of the English Department at NEIU. Libretti also supported and guided Sanchez’s steps towards being accepted into the university.

Both Rivera and Sanchez attended the screening and lead a panel where guests could ask questions about his life since the documentary.

Sanchez has since been admitted and has maintained a good GPA, contributing to the campus community. He is a part-time student, with most of that time at El Centro but does visit the main campus occasionally. He’s also been working for the last two years. Like most students, he finds balancing study and work a challenge and does not know what to major in.

Sanchez maintains contact with his family who are still helping him with school even though they do not live together.

Another student followed throughout the film was Kasey, an African American female whose difficult housing situation had her homeless on and off but found shelter in organizations such as the Teen Living Program and the Night Ministry Club. Her uncle had passed away right before her best friend was stabbed in the lungs and has suffered intense emotional abuse and drug addiction throughout her life.

Despite all of her hardship, she successfully managed to attain a GED, making her family and friends very proud. Current updates on her progress however were unavailable as most economically disadvantaged youth are extremely mobile for survival purposes.

The last student followed was Anthony, an African American male who was also living at a Teen Living Program housing center. He had a son and was advocating for custody while seeking his GED. He eventually obtained it and was accepted into the Year Up Program. The Year Up Program is a nonprofit organization based in the Loop that provides career and educational experience and resources to youth in need. Current updates on Anthony’s progress were also unavailable.

Rivera continues to help students and mentor them any way she can. She has worked at three different schools building relationships as an advocate for her students, works for CPS and maintains a relationship with Sanchez’s family.

Sanchez’s hardships have only made him work harder and while those days are behind him, he won’t forget them.