Author Visits RFH

March 26th, 2013

Visiting Author

Visiting Author Kevin Ryan talks to a group of RFH students.



Rumson — “Their dreams are just as big as your dreams, but as you rest your head on a pillow by the Jersey Shore they are sleeping by the Lincoln Tunnel,” said visiting author Kevin Ryan as he addressed a group of students at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School recently.

The students immediately understood that “by the Lincoln Tunnel” refers to the New York City location of Covenant House International, which provides food, shelter, and services to over 56,000 at-risk and street youth aged 16 to 21. As part of an assignment for Kathrine Borsuk’s English I Honors class, they had read portions of the book “Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope,” which Mr. Ryan co-authored with writer Tina Kelley.

Mr. Ryan is the parent of two RFH students and the President of Covenant House International, which has locations in more than twenty cities in six countries. His book

“Almost Home” tells the compelling stories of six teens that entered the doors of Covenant House and successfully turned their lives around. Only the names of the teens have been changed. The details of the circumstances that led them to various Covenant House locations, and their bravery as they struggled against the odds, are laid bare in a compassionate and inspiring way.

One such teen is “Paulie,” who entered Covenant House in Anchorage, Alaska after leaving his family home due to relentless abuse at the hands of his father. Although Paul’s road was not always a smooth one, and he did end up back on the street numerous times only to keep returning to Covenant House, he gained life skills and coping mechanisms with the help of Covenant House services and caring staffers. Paulie eventually became a champion kickboxer and accomplished chef, and now volunteers to cook meals at Covenant House.

In his presentation, Mr. Ryan explained that when he first volunteered at Covenant House as a young man and met teens like Paulie, he felt rage toward anyone who neglected or abused young people. He ended up planning to “help, and then leave — it seemed like a world of complete brokenness.”

Instead, after working for many years in the field of law, he found himself wondering, “What is the bridge from hopelessness to hope?” He saw Covenant House in a new light, as a beacon of hope for displaced youth, and returned once again determined to make a difference.

Mr. Ryan filled students in on the day-to-day workings of Covenant House, which includes getting young people off the street and into the program by building trust. He hit close to home by telling them about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when volunteers approached homeless youth living under the storm-ravaged boardwalk in Asbury Park to offer sandwiches and discuss Covenant House services.

He then answered a host of questions from the students, who were curious to know what had been occurring lately in the lives of the youths whose stories they had read. The students noted that while they had been inspired by the young people who turned their lives around, they were concerned about those who ended up leaving Covenant House permanently only to wander back into homelessness and despair.

“We have had our share of tragedies, but we have had a lot of wonderful success stories as well,” explained Mr. Ryan.

“Nobody goes to Covenant House to rest,” he said. “They work hard and continue their schooling and end up getting hired by Dunkin’ Donuts and Goldman Sachs to name just a few of our participating employers.” Mr. Ryan told the story of a homeless teen with a baby who left Covenant House after successfully finding housing and employment. Years later, he reported, she became one of the Directors of Covenant House. “She’s now my boss!” he noted, as the students smiled appreciatively.

In closing, Mr. Ryan urged the students to “be kind to one another” and to become involved with a worthy charity. At the conclusion of the author visit, many left with information on Covenant House fundraising activities such as running the New York City half-marathon.

They also left with a better understanding of how homeless teens and those growing up in homes with supportive families are actually more alike than they are different. “The young people of Covenant House are among the most interesting I have ever met,” said Mr. Ryan. “In fact, their homelessness is the only boring thing about them.”

Covenant House International is the largest privately-funded agency in the Americas. The author proceeds from the sale of “Almost Home” are being used to help support the shelter and outreach services provided. These include healthcare, educational support including GED (General Educational Development) preparation and college scholarships, job readiness and skills training programs, drug abuse treatment and prevention programs, mental health services, legal services, mother/child programs, transitional living programs, street outreach and aftercare. For more information, visit their web site at


Mary Ann Kampfe, RFHRHS Public Relations or 908-347-8885 

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