Homeless Teenager Sets Her Sights on Yale - And Wins

 IMAGE: Andazola Marquez in the parking lot of a motel where she and her family lived just three years ago. Courtesy of Kevin Moloney for The New York Times

“I can never forget the classic motel stays. The countless notes that stated in all capitals 'MUST EVACUATE BY 4PM' were my cues to negotiate with the manager to give us one more day to make our payments,” wrote teenager Andazola Marquez. She added, “I learned where $5 would buy enough food to feed a family of 5.”

These were the words of a homeless teenage girl, struggling to survive with her mother and younger siblings. These are the words of a young woman about to begin her sophomore year at Yale.

A Story of Survival

Andazola Marquez watched other students at her high school go home to warm beds and enough to eat. In contrast, Andazola and her siblings followed their mother from one homeless shelter to the next, sometimes being turned away, and forced to beg for space in the houses of strangers. It was a life, she said, that she wanted to get far away from.

“I saw so many examples of what my life could end up being,” she remembers. “I thought one way or another, I have to leave this place.”

How did she beat the odds?