By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV


SOMERVILLE (CBS) – When you see Marquis Murray in his crisp blue suit, it is kind of hard to picture him homeless. But the 21-year-old was just that, only a few months ago – hopping from one friend’s couch to the next, he says, the product of a broken home.

“Broken homes cause broken egos, which lowers your self-esteem to where you don’t feel human,” Murray says. “You don’t feel like you belong anywhere.”

He had dropped out of Everett High School twice and the teen dad was just about done altogether.

“As bad as it is to admit it, suicide was on my mind, all the time,” he says. “So, how did it feel? It felt horrible.”

Then, a program called Youth Harbors threw a lifeline to Marquis and 38 other homeless high schoolers just like him. Youth Harbors offers adult role models – and plain old help – finding and paying for a place to live.

According to their website, the organization serves young adults who “are too old for child services, and adult shelters expose them to a world that is completely developmentally inappropriate and dangerous for them.”

On Monday night, Youth Harbors held a special ceremony at the Somerville Armory to congratulate the 39 high school seniors from Eastern Massachusetts who obtained their diplomas this spring. The students’ schools included Malden High School, Somerville High School, Everett High School, Lowell High School, the Jeremiah E. Burke High School, and Boston Day and Evening Academy.

The students are either referred to the program by high school counselors, or they find it themselves. Among those celebrating Monday night was 18-year-old Alicia Rodrigues, who also came close to giving up.

“I was failing school,” she says. “I was mostly focused on, ‘Well, this is what’s going to get a roof over my head and food in me is working, not going to school,’” Rodrigues said.

“My rock bottom was when I got a letter from the high school saying you officially dropped out. I hate that word. Oh my God, I really do. I never thought in my life I’d be a drop out,” she said.

Now, she’s a Malden High graduate with plans to attend college.

She, like Marquis Murray who hopes to be an entrepreneur, knows well what it’s like to truly earn something.

“I pushed through, and this is where I am now,” Murray told WBZ before delivering the student speech at the ceremony. “I feel like I’m on top of the world. I might not be because I’m not one of the right guys controlling the world, but I’m where I want to be now.”

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