Henry Jimenez and Akiva Johnson, both 17, are classmates and close friends at the High School for Youth and Community Development in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. Now juniors, they met freshman year while participating in StoryCorpsU, a former program of StoryCorps Education.


In their StoryCorps conversation, Akiva and Henry discuss the challenges they have had to confront in their daily lives, and how grateful they both are for the support—often unknowingly—they have provided each other, by sharing stories they have never before told.

While they were talking, Akiva (pitcured above left) revealed that in October 2012, after Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the eastern coast of the United States, he and his mother were displaced from their home. They spent parts of the next three years in homeless shelters across New York City—including last Christmas—something Henry was unaware of.

Henry (pictured above right) has also had to overcome difficulties. When he was 13 he left Mexico and came to the United States to live with an aunt, leaving behind his parents and younger brother. The challenges faced by a young boy coming to an unfamiliar country were eased by the support he received from Akiva.

They both expect that their friendship, which was forged in school by having the opportunity to open up and share personal stories, will endure—even after Henry follows his dream and enlists in the Marine Corps.

Originally aired December 18, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.