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Homeless D.C. Student Offered Housing & Chance to Play Football for Recruiters

September 19, 2018

By Eyasu Delesa

(This story has been updated.)

An 18-year-old homeless student at Ballou High School with an offer to play Division 1 football was denied the chance to play in front of college recruiters due to residency rules. 

Jamal Speaks, a senior at Ballou-STAY Opportunity Academy night school, appealed his initial August denial to play by D.C. Public Schools to the State Athletic Association and was cleared. However, just before Speaks was ready to step on the field Saturday and play in front of a Temple University recruiter, Principal Willie Jackson refused to let him play.

Principal Jackson was “advised of the residency concerns" but not given direction to sit Speaks, a spokesperson from D.C. schools told WUSA9.

Since the story broke, a local shelter for homeless youth, Covenant House Greater Washington, has offered Speaks a home.

"After hearing that Jamal was experiencing homelessness and at-risk of losing the ability to pursue his dream of attending college and playing football, I knew that CHGW had to help," the organization's CEO, Dr. Madye Henson, said in a statement.

D.C. Public Schools announced on Wednesday that Speaks will now be able to practice and play with him team, NBC 4 reports.

"With the best interest of the student and the entire Ballou Knights football team in mind, we are working with DCSAA to resolve this matter as quickly as possible," DCPS said in a statement.

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