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Helping hand came just in time for teen

David Peake (left) JasRoberts

David Peake (left) and Jason Roberts

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Updated: August 2, 2013 7:00AM

When 18-year-old David Peake became homeless during his senior year at Urban Prep Academy, a classmate came to the rescue.

“It was a night in October and we were at a scholarship fair and David didn’t have a ride home,” recalls Jason Roberts, 16.

Because David’s family lost their housing in Chicago, the teen was forced to commute from Indiana. His mother usually picked him up from after-school activities.

On this particular night, however, the mother had no transportation and David was stranded.

“I asked my mom if he could stay the night here,” Jason said. “Push came to shove and I asked her if he could spend the rest of his senior year with us.”

It was a huge request given Jan Kruel Roberts’ circumstances. She was divorced with two children. Additionally, a battle with breast cancer six years ago forced her to reduce her workload.

Despite her challenges, Roberts couldn’t say no.

“If we had not taken David in, he would not have been able to continue at Urban Prep,” the mother said. “Because my son asked, I let him stay with us for the entire school year.”

“Words can’t even describe how I felt about that,” David said.

“Part of the reason I am where I am is because Jason’s mother took me back and forth to school. She put in all the effort, making sure we were at school on time,” David told me. “I thank God for this family.”

Like the hundreds of young black men honored at a Mass Black Male Graduation and Transition to Manhood ceremony held Saturday at Chicago State University, David and Jason are shining examples of teens who are trying to make the most of their opportunities.

David, who was valedictorian of his class, was accepted at Georgetown University, and is the recipient of a Gates Millennium Scholarship that will pay for tuition and housing.

Ironically, while David is set for the next four years, Jason’s mother is struggling to come up with the money needed to send him to the University of Pennsylvania after he was accepted into the Ivy League school.

Jason also graduated with top academic honors. Although the 16-year-old received a $30,000 scholarship, he still needs to come up with an additional $30,000.

But the only job he has landed is a part-time job at Cuttie Yacht Club, a new recreation venture at the 31st Street Harbor.

“That is the terrible part. Right now, I am trying to find any scholarships or internships or anything that can help,” he said.

Trying to close the gap in her son’s financial aid has stressed out his mother.

“I’m not trying to beg for anything. I have worked all my life,” she told me. “If I have to work another job, I am willing to do that. But my son is an unsung hero. He shouldn’t be struggling.”

Unfortunately, her son is not alone.

Thousands of students at historically black colleges and universities are struggling to fill a gap in their financial aid because of a change in the federal education loan policies, the Washington Post recently reported.

A tougher credit check disqualified borrowers with unpaid debts over the past five years, and debts that were referred to a collection agency.

The Post analysis found that there were 18,800 parent borrowers in 2012-13 at about 90 HBCUs, compared to 35,400 the year before. That is a 47 percent drop. The decline in borrowers for all schools was nearly one in five.

As a result, many students were unable to return to school.

Given the economy, the impact of stiffer credit criteria will continue to hit the African-American community the hardest. Black unemployment is typically twice as high as whites, and many single black mothers struggle to provide for their households.

“I’m pretty much raising the kids on my own when it comes to money,” Roberts said.

Still, Roberts doesn’t regret helping David, who still resides in her home.

“My biggest thing is trying to repay them back for everything they have done,” David said. “The only thing I could do is do my best and show them I am truly grateful.”

I am a firm believer in what goes around comes around.

Jason’s help is just around the corner.

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