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Aging Out
My Story
David Griffin
Risa Bejarano
Daniella Anderson
Keely Lopez
Thomas Hudson

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Thomas sings in church
Thomas sings in church.

Since Thomas stopped attending classes, he was no longer entitled to a scholarship and living stipend when he turned 21. When he emancipated, Thomas decided it was time to move on in other ways as well.

THOMAS: Some days I wake up and I look at being in the system, look at all the stuff I had to go through personally. I feel like saying, the hell with all of this stuff. Just pack me a duffel bag, go get all the little money I got, and just go way across the world somewhere.

Just two days after his 21st birthday, Thomas quit his job. He decided that Chicago had too many bad memories associated with it and headed to Florida to live with his cousin, vowing not to return for several years. His friend Lakeesha accompanied him to the bus terminal.

Video of healing in Florida
THOMAS: I'm just tired of being in Chicago, period. It's a lot of pain here. My grandmother's death. Being constantly reminded of a broken relationship between me and my mother. My father, I don't even know who he is. And 21 is a new age, new responsibilities, new relocation. I'm going into adulthood. I don't want to be a caged bird. I want to spread my wings and fly.

I'm going to make it, come hell or high water, I'm going to make it. If I have to go to a shelter, if I have to get on public assistance, I'm going to stay out there to make it.

Thomas Hudson

Video about returning to Chicago

Thomas returned to Chicago three months after he moved to Florida when his money had run out and he had a serious dispute with his cousin.

THOMAS: Florida was my escape, and also my healing place. But when the money ran out, then I became a burden. I decided to move from Florida back to Chicago because I was tired of being down there, I didn't like my living situation. I felt I was called back by God.

Thomas got his old job back at the after-school program at Stockton Elementary School. He decided to apply for a second job in the school's cafeteria.

THOMAS: This position would give me exactly everything I need. I would have benefits and I'll be in a situation where I can really save like I want to. I'm not taking it lightly, but I'm not stressing over it either. I know I got it, it's mine, it's for me and that's it. How many African American men do you know work two jobs? I feel good about that. I get to see the kids and I even met some new little kids.

With the first steady job of his life, Thomas was able to afford a $374 a month studio apartment a few blocks from work.

THOMAS: It's my apartment. I can tell somebody, get out my apartment. It's mine. I'm grateful for it. The hell with what anybody thinks. It's what I want to do. At 21, I just got started. The world ain't seen half of what I'm gonna do.

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