For those who have lost their biological families or are unable to lean on them, chosen families are invaluable. Even without the bond of blood, they provide the love, support, and kindness that everyone deserves — especially minors.
One young man named Marcus shared his heart-wrenching story on TikTok, highlighting the life-altering impact of his chosen family. From becoming homeless to accepting a D1 football scholarship, his chosen support system, along with a community of people from school, supported him in the absence of his birth family.
Marcus shared how school was his ‘safe place’ providing him with a chosen family, safety, and comfort.
Dealing with an abusive home life and a mother struggling with addiction, going to school in the morning was this young man’s escape each day. Whether it was seeing his favorite teacher or bonding with his teammates at football or baseball games after school, Marcus caught a glimpse of the love and support that he was lacking when he returned home.
In a TikTok video, Marcus shared countless examples of school staff members going above and beyond to help him through some of his hardest moments, paired with pictures of each of the significant people. “People can’t do much in a small town,” he captioned the video, “but, they sure as [heck] saved me.”
“My first-grade teacher was the first person to ask about my scars and bruises,” he wrote over the first image — a selfie with her when she surprised him at his graduation. The photos continued — dedicated to teachers who gave him clothes in the winter, coaches who left the gym unlocked for him to sleep in, and parents who opened their homes to give him a sense of community.
While some students complain about the insignificance of school and consider it “like prison” — Marcus reminded viewers of “kids like him” who find safety and support at school. After years of abuse as a child, he found an escape that helped to heal his wounds and take steps toward a future his younger self would be proud of.
While the teachers and coaches at school were instrumental to his growth and success, so was his relationship with his best friend — who ultimately became family.
After his mom kicked him out during his junior year of high school, Marcus recalled dropping out and quitting sports. Not only did he endure homelessness, but also complete isolation from his only sense of safety and community.
“Ultimately, my best friend’s mom let me move in. They supported me,” Marcus shared. “Her parents walked with me on senior night. They treated me like family. If it wasn’t for them, I’d still be on the streets.”
With the opportunity from his best friend’s family, he was able to return to school and sports — leading to a successful high school career that opened the door to several college scholarships. In addition, Marcus finally had family dinners, weekend trips, siblings, and a lifetime of love and support to look forward to.
Hoping to provide advice and support to younger kids going through similar struggles, Marcus shared his heartfelt story on TikTok.
While Marcus ultimately got adopted by his best friend’s family — he understands that there are still many young people going through a similar situation who need love, support, and hope to continue in their lives.
Studies from the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness reveal that hundreds of thousands of high school students are homeless today in the United States — many of whom will continue to fall under the radar of many support systems, school staff, and loving families. In fact, since 2008, the amount of homeless students in the United States has risen by over 90 percent.
While school, social life, and the pressure of sports are all normal stressors for today’s high school students, for students experiencing homelessness, the burden of stress and anxiety is multiplied. They’re saddled with responsibilities and anxiety that most adults don’t ever confront and are often more prone to mental health struggles, with higher rates of emotional, behavioral, and immediate and long-term health struggles recorded in these groups.
Gaining online attention and support from his original story, Marcus uses his platform to provide support to these students — reminding them they’re not alone, that they’re heard, and that they have the power to break the cycle.
“I know that right now you might feel like nothing’s right for you, nothing good is going to be brought to you or you don’t bring good to others,” he said in a recent post, “because you have grown so good at being alone.”
While teachers, coaches, and his chosen family gave Marcus a light to stride towards, he wants to be that idol for other struggling groups. He knows better than most just how far kindness, compassion, and empathy can go.
Zayda Slabbekoorn is a news and entertainment writer at YourTango focusing on pop culture analysis and human interest stories.