Learning the Hard Way

Walking or driving down the streets of Las Vegas, teenagers often see someone who is homeless and looking for food or begging for money, but few young people have to worry about what they would do if they ended up on the streets.

Chris Presswood was forced to figure it out after he found himself without a home starting on his 18th birthday, when his parents told him to move out.

"This wasn't surprising at all, so I just packed my bags and left," Presswood says.

He didn't seem to mind the sudden lifestyle change as much as most might. Attempting to restore some stability in his life he began looking for a job, but was unable to find work because of the deteriorating economy in the summer of 2009.

By giving rides to friends after school, Presswood was able to make some gasoline money to get around to see friends and get a place to sleep at night if he was lucky.

Nothing in Presswood's life changed drastically. He still went to school at Bonanza High School, where the counselors were sympathetic.

The counselors at Bonanza have a plan of attack if, or when, anyone with this situation comes forward.

"We all pull together as a counseling team to find the best solution to the problem," says Bonanza counselor Aaron Castillo. "Whether that's food, clothes, or a roof over their head, we will get it done."

Presswood was on track to graduate this summer but ran into difficulties and has not attended school in months.

"I was brought into the dean's office and was told I had been charged with sexual harassment by someone I didn't even know," he says. "I kept telling them that it wasn't me and I didn't do it, but they continued to attempt to try to get me to confess to a crime I didn't commit."

After the incident, Presswood chose to withdraw from school and not come back until he had a diploma in hand.

"I said to myself as I was walking out those doors that I would prove them wrong and do it without their help," he says, crossing his arms and glaring at the wall.

Not everything in this teenager's life has been rough, though. He had a steady girlfriend for eight months while being homeless the entire time. The couple eventually broke up, but Presswood says it had nothing to do with his living situation.

He isn't currently dating anyone. "I'm giving myself time to figure out what I want in a relationship," he says.

Despite trouble in his love life, Presswood still manages to be social with friends such as Alexis Roretz.

"Chris and I have been friends for three years and I think we got a lot closer when we were both homeless and sleeping in his car," Roretz says.

Both friends currently are living in homes provided by loved ones.

Presswood is back with his family, though not his parents. He's living with his brother and sister.

He says he isn't financially stable, but "given my last situation, I'm in a better place."

Presswood plans on attending the College of Southern Nevada and pursuing a career in writing. He also intends to continue with gymnastics as soon as he can afford it.

Before Presswood ended up on the streets, he had been involved with gymnastics since he was 4 years old, and he has won many meets and placed first in several competitions.

Most of Presswood's goals have been put on hold. "I don't want to do anything until I have a job and a place to live where I am the sole provider," he says.

Presswood's independence and strength, mentally and physically, is noticeable to his friends.

Skyler Decristoforo met Presswood eight months ago while Presswood was living on the streets.

"He didn't act like he was homeless actually," Decristoforo says. "He seemed pretty normal to me."

Presswood's goals haven't changed in the past year. He wants to get a job, find a place to live, graduate high school and go to college.

"No matter where I go, or what I do, I want for everyone to remember me for being who I am," he says. "And when I die, I want to leave the impact of my deeds on this Earth."

He says he's learned a lot from his situation.

"This experience has shown me that not all the people in the world are the same and not all events are equal. This lesson is just something I'll have to live with."