Young man goes from homeless to graduate

Young man goes from homeless to graduate

A young man went from being homeless and living down by the river, to proudly walking across the stage at college graduation. Part of his success story is the Albany County Sheriff's Homeless program.

Omar Cunningham is a proud graduate of Hudson Valley Community College.

“Sometimes you don’t see how far you’ve come from where you used to be and walking on the stage just reminded me of all the different trials and tribulations and I just felt a great sense of accomplishment,” he said.

It was a shining moment. He is now a junior at UAlbany.

He also recently moved out of SHIP, the Albany County Sheriff’s Homeless Improvement Program, after about a year and a half.

“I got a call from one of our employees, Waverly Patrick,” said Vivian Kornegay, SHIP Housing Coordinator. “He said to me, ‘Vivian, I know this young man and I saw him today sleeping on a park bench by the Hudson River. He said his name is Omar. He said he’s 19 years old, trying to go to school and living by Hudson Park.’ And my only response was, ‘Why didn’t you go get him? Go get him!'”

Kornegay was there when Cunningham graduated from Hudson Valley.

Young man goes from homeless to graduate

A young man is celebrating his recent graduation. His path through college wasn't always smooth. Only a few years ago, he was homeless, living by the river. Then he found himself at the Albany County Sheriff's Homeless Program.

“Because, how could I not? I watched him come from sleeping on a park bench,” she said. “I was not going to miss the opportunity to see him walk across the stage.”

The college made a video about him. Omar was big in the Chess Club, Investment Club, Entrepreneur Club, and the Student Senate, among other things.

Free from worry about safe shelter and food, he could focus on his studies.

“I definitely think it was the staff,” he said. “The staff is very passionate about what they do. They don’t judge you. They help you work towards whatever goal that you set into place.”

He’d like to get his MBA in the future, and he begins an internship with the comptroller’s office soon.

Omar’s face is turned firmly to the future, but he’ll never forget the past.

“I’d like to thank each of them collectively and individually for playing a part in who I am today, and shaping my perspective of the world and never giving up on me and seeing that spark inside of me that sometimes I wasn’t able to see in myself,” said Omar.

He says to him, SHIP symbolizes hope.

“Thank you to Sheriff Craig Apple for having that program in place because there are a lot of individuals that are genuinely trying to better themselves. There aren’t that many opportunities out there, so they end up going back to the same cycle,” he said.

“This is exactly what the program is made for,” said Apple. “It’s made for people who need a boost back up on their feet. And to watch him travel through this success story has been awesome.”