Despite housing instability, SM West senior makes her way to graduation

Daelyn Whitby has overcome a number of significant obstacles on her way to earning her diploma from SM West.

Making your way through high school can be challenging enough when you have a reliable roof over your head, two involved parents and a stable home life.

It can seem nearly impossible when you’re homeless.

So when Daelyn Whitby walks across the stage to receive her SM West diploma tonight, it will mark the culmination of a remarkable effort.

“It was not easy. It was really hard at times. But I did it. I did it,” she said.

Whitby transferred to SM West her sophomore after spending a few years at school in Pleasanton, Kan., where she lived with her mother and stepfather. When that situation deteriorated, she moved to the Kansas City area to live with her father and stepmother. Things didn’t go well there either, and soon she was looking for places to stay.

She relied on friends for places to sleep. She’d take advantage of any opportunity to use a laundry machine. Some afternoons she contemplated just posting up in the SM West locker room and sleeping there.

“I would take a backpack full of clothes and was at different places all the time,” she said.

Somehow, though, she managed to keep going to class, showing a predilection for math and science. She participated in the school’s robotics team, and credits the team sponsor with giving her a place to store her stuff when she was in between places to live. She excelled in classes like trigonometry (“It’s just triangles,” she said.)

After staff at the school learned more about her situation, they helped her enroll in the McKinney-Vento program, which provided some support to cover school fees. She said that she wouldn’t have been able to make it without that support.

“If I wasn’t a McKinney-Vento student, I wouldn’t have been able to graduate,” she said.

In August, she’ll attend the Kansas City Art Institute.