2009 Michael Roberts

When Michael Roberts left school each afternoon, he often didn’t know where he was going to sleep that night.  Many nights, his home was a shelter or a church, which offered Michael, his mother and his sister a floor to sleep on and a sink to wash up in.  Some nights were spent on St. Paul streets “waiting for the sun to come up” so he could go back to school.

Knowing that other kids had homes with real beds “just killed me a little inside” he said. He liked school, because he got a meal and “burned up time” before he had to return to the shelter. But learning was hard, knowing his mother was always struggling to find food and shelter for him and his sister. “Hand-me-downs” were all they had to wear.

Michael’s mother was just 15 when Michael was born. His father never was part of his life. To escape the poverty and violence of Chicago, his mom moved the family to Minneapolis without a job or family support.

His mother finally received housing assistance and a small apartment, where Michael shared a room with his sister. But moving was the routine. With a new baby, and even though his mom was working, money was always scarce. When Michael’s wrestling coach saw Michael losing weight and becoming weaker, he knew Michael wasn’t getting enough food to eat. School breaks were tough because the school breakfasts and lunches weren’t available.

Despite the difficult home environment, Michael excelled both in the classroom and as a top athlete at Harding High School. He became a fixture on the B honor roll. He helped give back by tutoring younger students, and was part of the “Knight Crew,” which helped freshmen transition into high school.

As an athlete, he was captain of the Harding football, wrestling and track teams and qualified for the state tournament in just his second season.  And he was all-conference in football, and at the top of the state
wrestling rankings at his weight.

He wants to repay his mother for all her sacrifices by going to college and “making something of himself.”

“I want to be able to tell her to kick back, put her feet up, 'I got it from
here,’" he says. "The Beat the Odds scholarship means a lot to me. I’m used to denial, so when I got accepted, it was a great honor. I just need that little push to get to where I need to be.”

He plans to pursue a degree in Business Management and Human Resources and attends Augustana College.