Once a high school student experiencing homelessness, Levi Bohanan ‘15 now advocates for homeless students and high-quality education within elementary and secondary education systems.
Levi Bohanan ‘15 experienced homelessness his senior year after coming out to his family as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Without a parent or guardian, Bohanan was uncertain about graduating from high school, let alone going to college. With the help of school staff, he was able to attend Texas A&M University with financial assistance from scholarships and Pell Grants.
Now a special assistant in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education in the U.S. Department of Education, Bohanan advocates to make sure students experiencing homelessness have the same opportunities he did in pursuing his education.
“There was a time when I didn’t think I’d be able to graduate from high school, much less be able to make it to college,” Bohanan said. “My senior year in high school…I was couch-surfing, staying with friends, and bouncing around from place to place. I was so fortunate to have some friends, and educators in my life who connected me to the resources I needed to go to college.”
Bohanan earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Texas A&M and a master’s degree in education policy analysis at the Teachers College at Columbia University. Throughout his time advocating for homeless students, he has served in the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs and the Office of the Secretary during the Obama administration.
While serving as a political appointee within the U.S. Department of Education, he used his personal experience as a homeless teen to help inform new federal guidelines for assisting homeless students. He has also served as a policy entrepreneur at Next100, a public policy think tank, where he worked on issues related to progressive child care policy and high-quality early education.
At Texas A&M, Bohanan found a welcoming community and environment that allowed him to be his true self. Bohanan said LGBTQ Aggies and the GLBT Resource Center, now known as the LGBTQ+ Pride Center, became his family.
“I’m so grateful for my time at Texas A&M,” Bohanan shared. “When I think about the timid, even scared, teenager that I was when I enrolled, I can’t imagine that I could have had a better place for me. My classes, my friends, the groups that I was a part of all shaped who I became. The university still has some growing up to do, though. Right now, particularly as we deal with the long term impacts of the pandemic, many institutions are taking a long hard look at the work being done around inclusivity. I look forward to seeing how that work develops and continues at Texas A&M.”
In addition to finding a place where he belonged, Bohanan also learned vital skills he still uses today from the classes he took as a political science major. He credits much of the initial success he had in his career to his experience within the Department of Political Science.
“It’s funny, but I didn’t really understand what political science was when I enrolled at Texas A&M,” Bohanan said. “I likely saw it in a movie or tv show somewhere and liked the sound of it. However, it worked out very well for me, as I turned out to really enjoy the subject. The foundation I got in my political science classes — in statistical analysis, in policy development, in public opinion — was so important as I began my career. My degree set me on track to intern in Washington, D.C. my junior year, and set the stage for me to return after graduation.”
During his years of advocating, informing, and influencing policy, Bohanan has used both his experience with homelessness and his time at Texas A&M as inspiration.
“I have an opportunity to work on policy that would have impacted me as a student,” Bohanan explained. “In some ways it feels surreal to think about federal policy problems through the lens of lived experience. You have to use all your logical, analytical skills to analyze data, identify trends on policy that is very deeply personal for you, because you see yourself in the policy. That is a critical part of policy development: putting the experiences of folks impacted by policy first.”
Bohanan will return to the Texas A&M campus for the annual Lavender Graduation Celebration on April 9, 2022 where he will also be a keynote speaker.
“I’m looking forward to celebrating the hard work of the students graduating this year,” Bohanan said. “There is so much to be proud of, and I can’t wait to share in the joy with the graduating students.”
By Tiarra Drisker ‘25
On Sept. 1, 2022, the Department of Political Science became part of the Bush School of Government & Public Service.