A man who was once homeless as a child, living on the streets with his parents, has beaten the odds and graduated from the University of Southern California a doctor of physical therapy.
Mich Hamlin, now 28, had lived with his parents and two brothers on the streets of southern California since he was 6 years old.
“I guess I was so accustomed to our living situation that I never really processed that, ‘Oh, kids actually go home and have a bed, a shower, and warm food on the table every night,’” Hamlin told USC News.
Life on the streets wasn’t easy. His parents were both substance abusers who worked under-the-table jobs and squandered most of their money on alcohol rather than food for the family.
They often feared the authorities, and would stay in different places every night. “In my head, it ended up turning into a game of not getting caught,” Hamlin said.
“Our unique housing situation consisted of living in the local parks, cars, trash bin containers, shelters, and when lucky, a motel for the night,” Hamlin told The Epoch Times. “Not knowing better, we were not embarrassed by how [we] lived because it was all we knew at that time.”
His father had a bike that they would use to transport their belongings to the gas station down the street where he and his brothers would shower using the sink every morning, before being dropped off at school by their parents.
The school would provide breakfast and lunch to Mich and his brothers, and they would also resort to getting back in line to bring some extra food home.
On Fridays, their teachers would offer a backpack to take home, containing Spam, granola bars, canned hot dogs, water, and juice to hold them over during the weekend.
But when Mich’s mom showed up at their school in December 2005, an office worker caught the smell of alcohol on her and called the police.
At that time, Mich was in seventh grade. His mom was arrested, and Mich and his siblings were taken into foster care.
The boys kept hoping that their father would find a way to sort things out and the foster home would last only a short while.
“Unfortunately, that never occurred,” said Hamlin.
After their mom succumbed to liver failure and passed away, their dad disappeared, and the kids were placed in foster care permanently.
Mich took his mother’s passing as motivation in school. He was soon introduced to track and field, which positively boosted his performance in class.
“I started focusing on school. I noticed the harder I worked on the track, the easier the classroom got,” Hamlin said. “It was an outlet. It gave me the discipline to stay focused and make the goals.”
Hamlin applied to college and was admitted at Cal Poly Pomona, where he majored in kinesiology.
“Anatomy was my favorite class in high school. After an extensive chat with my coach, physical therapy was the profession I set sights on,” he said.
“There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone else.”
Mich performed exceptionally, graduating with honors from Cal Poly Pomona in 2016. On average, less than 3 percent of children from foster care homes graduate with advanced degrees, according to the National Foster Youth Institute.
Fortunately, Hamlin was awarded Chafee and Pell grants to complete his undergraduate degree without debt.
He has his sights on offering assistance to people in need, having experienced such hardship as a child and now hopes to enter physical therapy as his chosen field.
“No one should have to go through anything close to what I have gone through,” he said. “I want to give back to the foster home programs. I wouldn’t be where I am at if it were not for their contributions and acts of kindness.”