RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Now just a few months away from graduating with a double major from North Carolina State University — it is an incredible achievement for Jacqulea Anderson.
Before she graduated high school in Warren County she lost her mother to lung cancer and her father to a heart attack.
Anderson had to give up the home she grew up in and figure out how to become the first in her family to graduate college.
“So I was thinking about that freshman year on top of trying to get acquainted with classes, make friends and just kind of figure out my place on this campus,” Anderson told CBS17.
Anderson’s story is surprisingly more common than you might think.
A recent survey by N.C. State professors and staff Dr. Mary Haskett, Dana Kotter-Grühn and Suman Majumder found that 9.6 percent of students at N.C. State have experienced homelessness in the last year.
“In our survey, we found the two highest places where students slept was couch surfing and then outside. So, the piece with outside, we’re not talking about in a public place we’re saying outside. So it’s not like ‘I slept in a library’ (or) I slept in an emergency room waiting room I slept outside’,” said Sarah Wright who is the assistant director of N.C. State’s federal TRIO program that helps serve low-income students and first-time graduates.
Wright added, “we don’t have to rely on an individual student who does not know where she’s going to sleep tonight to solve hunger and homelessness on our campus”.
The same survey found 14.8 percent of students were food insecure in just the last 30 days.
Wright said even with assistance or emergency loans there’s too much responsibility on the student.
“That shows a systematic issue that is not 3,000 students making poor financial decisions,” Wright said.
“At a time when they’re most depleted with resources, we say ‘here’s the solution’ you know that we’re giving you, now figure out how to overcome the systems that are in society and higher education to then be the student you want to be,” Wright said.
“We’re putting the entire responsibility on the students — where we’re a Research 1 institution we care about our rankings and being in the top 20 and top 10 and so we have the resources, the intellect the fundraising the international reach of professors and experts here to make systems change,” Wright added.
Anderson continues to overcome all the obstacles and hopes to go to graduate school at the University of Michigan or Perdue.
But, until May, her focus continues on providing for herself and graduating.
“It’s like trying to make sure I have and I get enough hours so I can pay rent and then trying to make sure I have enough energy to actually study,” Anderson said.
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