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From Homeless To Honor Roll

Mary Seaman and Casey Paladino

Our Public Schools are full of good news and student success…thanks to our educators and hard-working students who overcome many different obstacles.

Casey Paladino was like many other freshman high school students. He rebelled, he fought with his mom and he didn’t make school his number one priority.  At the end of the school year, all of that changed for the teen from Lewiston after an argument with his mother.

“One day she said you need to get out and don’t come back. She kicked me out of the house,” said Casey.

Casey moved in with his father and step-mother, hoping for some stability.  Casey says both were alcoholics and fought often, hitting each other in what was a very abusive relationship.  Two weeks after Casey settled in at their home, his father ended up in jail on domestic violence charges.  Casey’s life was uprooted again.  “My step-mother told me I wasn’t her responsibility and told me I had to find another place to live,” said Casey.

Casey was now a homeless teen.  He stayed with friends “couch surfing” the summer of his freshman year but school was about to start and he needed help. At the beginning of his sophomore year Casey met Mary Seaman, the educator he would soon fondly call his “school mom.”

“If it were not for Mary I really don’t know where I would be today, said Casey.  Who knows if I would have stuck with school…stayed in school. Mary was always there saying you can do it you’re going to be fine, don’t let these setbacks get in your way of becoming what you want to be.”

Mary Seaman says she teaches "life," working as the McKinney-Vento Homeless liaison at Lewiston High School.  The McKinney-Vento liaison is a nationwide network of individuals in each school district dedicated to eliminating barriers to education.  “How can students worry about algebra and homework if they don’t know where they are putting their slippers tonight,” said Mary.

Mary quickly helped Casey find an apartment through a transitional living program available to eligible teenagers.  Mary also helped Casey find a job and even get a driver’s license but her work didn’t end there.

“What I saw was a young man with great intelligence and potential losing the spark of when I grow up I could be a ‘fill in the blank.’  When we started taking care of his basic needs we could see that his fire would reignite with those hopes and dreams,” said Mary.

Throughout the remainder of Casey’s high school years he spent mornings with Mary, having breakfast and preparing for his school day.  Casey changed his course with Mary’s support, going from homeless to making the honor roll and being named as a member of the National, Spanish and National Technical Honor Societies.  Based on Casey's school success while experiencing homelessness, received a $2,000 Le Tendre scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) conference. Mary also helped him apply for college, filling out paperwork and signing necessary forms when a parent signature would be required.

“Lewiston High School has a lot of teachers who want to see you succeed. Mary was above and beyond that. No matter who you were, no matter your situation, she was 100%... she wanted to help.  She is the teacher everyone strives to be,” said Casey.

Casey is now in his freshman year at Syracuse University, studying civil engineering.  Mary is already planning her visit for Casey’s college graduation.  That is true success, by every definition of the word.

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