They could have easily been forgotten. Instead, a group of four young men celebrated a milestone at the La Buena Vida High School Graduation Party held at the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce building on Monday, June 5th.
“All four were looking at having to drop out because they had no way to get to school,” said Joy Goodrum, executive director of La Buena Vida. “They had nowhere to live to get ready for school, and they had no transportation to get there.”
La Buena Vida is an Irving-based non-profit organization that helps homeless and at-risk students by providing transitional housing as well as skills to succeed in school and life.
The organization also operates La Buena Vida House, the first homeless shelter specifically for teens in Irving, which opened its door back in 2015.
La Buena Vida has provided over 17 students with transitional housing. This year’s graduating class consists of three young men from MacArthur High School and one from Irving High School.
Members of the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as members of the community all came out to congratulate the graduates, many bearing graduation gifts. J.C. Gonzales, chairman of the board for the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, explained how the chamber became involved with La Buena Vida.
“Joy serves on our board and last year there was not one dry eye in the board meeting when she was sharing what her experience was with two of the young men graduating,” Gonzales said. “Those two young men were on the telephone trying to find relatives and trying to get a hold of someone so that they could attend and watch them cross the stage, but no one answered the phones. The only person there was Joy.”
Gonzales personally wanted to help the kids out, as he understands a little bit about the situation these kids face.
“I come from a challenging background and sometimes growing up, I felt alone and no child should feel that way,” Gonzales said. “When we see these young men go through those challenges, I want to help them out and be the person that I needed when I was growing up.”
Marquis M. and Brandon D. were two of the four graduates of this year’s class. Both graduated from MacArthur High School. Marquis is currently working at Tom Thumb and wants to compete in the Special Olympics, while Brandon is planning on studying to become an electrician.
“It’s really a blessing,” Marquis said. “I’ve just met a lot of people like Miss Joy and her friends and they really helped me to get there. It’s changed my life forever.”
“It’s meant a lot to me, because they helped me get through some tough times throughout high school and they help me finish it when the time came down to it,” Brandon said.
Michael W. graduated from Irving High School last year and is currently working at Whataburger while looking at attending classes at North Lake College. He talked about the challenges he faced that led him to La Buena Vida.
“Me and my dad, we had some problems,” Michael said. “He had to kick me out of his house, and I ended up homeless on the street. But then, the rec center told me, ‘We’d like for you to join this program.’ They gave a call to La Buena Vida, and I met Miss Joy and Mr. Ben. They gave me a talk and they said I was in.”
He added that finally getting to walk across the stage was a surreal experience.
“It was pretty crazy, seeing everybody congratulating you,” Michael said. “High school was a great experience, but you got to move on from it. It’s just part of life.”