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For pregnant teen, homelessness adds to 'some really rough times'
By Kerry Lester | Daily Herald Staff

Angelica Ortuno, 17, is a homeless student and four months pregnant. She has been bouncing from relative to relative and school to school for the past four years, all the while still trying to graduate from high school.

 

Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/27/2009 12:02 AM

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She puts on a brave face, her arms calmly around her baby bump.

But as Angelica Ortuno recounts the upheaval in her life recently, a tremor can be detected in the 17-year-old's voice.

"It's been some really rough times," she says quietly.

The senior at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville had a relatively stable life four years ago. Reared in Elgin, she was living with her mother, ready to start her second year at Elgin High.

And that's when the rollercoaster ride began.

Her parents separated, and it became hard for her mother to pay the bills on her own. The two moved to Carpentersville to live with Angelica's older sister, Antonia. Angelica attended Dundee-Crown for the second half of the year.

That summer, she and her mother moved to Texas to live with her father again. She attended high school there. But financial troubles came into the picture again, and after a year her mother sent her back to live in Belvidere with her Angelica's older brother and wife.

She attended Belvidere High School for four months.

But because they were going through a divorce, Angelica moved back with Antonia in February, re-enrolling at Dundee-Crown.

Antonia clashed with Angelica's boyfriend, so Angelica was sent to live with her Aunt Grace in Elgin in March 2009.

All the moving, Angelica said, made keeping up grades hard. She missed her mother. It was tough to get comfortable wherever she was, to have to make new friends all over again.

She didn't want to have to switch schools another time.

School officials told her that if she wanted to stay at Dundee-Crown, they could find a way.

"They told me a lady from District 300 was going to give me a call," she said.

Patty Briones, the homeless student services department's secretary, explained to Angelica that as a homeless student, she had the right to attend Dundee-Crown, even though she was living outside district boundaries.

A taxi began picking her up in the morning. A bus took her home at night.

Sometimes the taxi would be late, and Angelica would miss her first class. She told Briones about her trouble.

"The taxi was never late again," Angelica said.

"Patty helped me with everything, getting me there on time," Angelica said. Briones told Angelica that she could call her whenever she needed.

Several months ago, she told Briones she was vomiting in the mornings. Briones arranged a taxi to take her to see a doctor, where Angelica learned she was pregnant.

Now four months along, Angelica is attending summer school in the mornings and heading straight to work at a cell phone shop in Carpentersville in the evenings.

Briones has arranged for transportation to summer school each morning. After work, her aunt picks her up. Angelica, due in December, hopes to graduate high school by next winter.

She hopes to attend college, majoring in accounting.

"I don't want my baby to have to move to so many different places, like I did," she said. "I want him to live in one house, go to the same schools. Stay there."