I was homeless but not hopeless

A graduating senior shares the story of how Loyola became his home

By Christopher Roque Mateo, '19

This is an excerpt of the remarks Christopher Roque Mateo, ’19, delivered at the 2018 Business Leader of the Year event, where Thomas Bozzuto of The Bozzuto Group was honored.

Christopher Roque Mateo, '19

Christopher Roque Mateo, ’19, left, poses with Loyola’s Business Leader of the Year, Thomas Bozzuto, chairman and co-founder of The Bozzuto Group.

Imagine being born into one of the poorest cities in America, where abandoned homes—stretching blocks—are the norm; individuals experiencing homeless and hardship, crime, and trauma are in the headlines each morning; and oddly enough—calling it home.

My mother and I used to collect cans at 4:30 in the morning before school in hopes we would make enough to hold us over. I remember splitting an apple six ways and knowing it might be the only thing I would eat for the following few days.

I can clearly recall teachers, community members, and, honestly, outsiders—people who did not know me—all repeating, “You will never amount to anything more”—than a product of your environment.

When I attempted to pursue higher education, they said, “Hmm…let’s be more realistic.” And at the time, I believed them.

All I ever knew was being born into a failed system, growing up with inferior resources, knowing less, and living below the poverty line.

My perspective for life changed when I realized my family and I were evicted for coming short on rental payments again. There we stood on the streets with all the doubt, fear, worries of the world. I was homeless, but I was not hopeless. At times I believed I would never get up again, but I insisted in reminding myself that life must go on.

I am a first-generation American, first-generation college student, and I am the first to leave el barrio—my neighborhood.

My experience at Loyola has been transformative. Because of the foundation, extended wisdom, courage, and new family I have met here, I now have the tools to change the trajectory of my loved ones, my fellow brothers and sisters, and my community.

When I was born, I was born with nothing. However, when I graduate, I will have everything that I could have ever wished for.

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