Online supporters pay for homeless teen's college tuition
Even though he's just a teenager, Griffin Furlong, nicknamed the "homeless valedictorian," gave the world inspiration. Now, the world is giving it back. HLN reports:
WASHINGTON, DC- MAY 12: Rashema Melson, 18 is the valedictorian at Anacostia High School this year. She will be attending Georgetown University this fall. She was homeless for a couple of years and lived in a shelter. Rashema is photographed at the Washington Post in Washington, D.C. on May 12, 2014. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
"I want to be able to show people they can do anything without all the valuable resources."
"Griffin lost his mom at 6-years-old to leukemia, and then bounced from houses to hotels to homeless shelters."
Furlong graduated at the top of his class with a 4.65 GPA at First Coast High in Jacksonville, Florida.
And, despite a difficult life, he still shared a sense of humor.
Saying to First Coast News, "If you do the math, a class of 500 students multiplied by 15 tickets is roughly 7,000 people. That's about one third of the average attendance at a Justin Bieber concert...I'm a pretty big deal right now."
Paying for college, though ... that was something he worried about.
That's when family friend Candace Nicole took to Internet funding website GoFundMe with the goal of raising $20,000. Almost 2,000 donations later, more than $109,000 has been given.
On the site Furlong wrote, "...I read every message and comment and I am thankful for every supporter out there. This will completely change my life, I hope people understand that. No more worries. All I want now is a happy, peaceful life."
With all expenses paid for, Furlong plans on going to Florida State to study engineering come fall.
And Furlong isn't the only homeless teen who turned their life around and became valedictorian. In June, Rashema Melson spoke on ABC alongside Furlong.
Melson spoke to WJLA:
"I started to give up, but then God gave me a sign that he wasn't putting me through this to punish me, but to show others how to be resilient, and persistent in the goals of life."
Melson's academic achievements earned her a full ride to Georgetown.
Student homelessness is a very serious issue. The Washington Post reported a record number––over a million––homeless students 2013.
Scholastic reports there are approximately 16,000 homeless liasions at schools across the country that do everything from helping the students with schoolwork to making sure they have clean towels in the locker room so they can shower at school.
National Alliance to End Homelessness says the McKinney-Vento Act says every school district must provide equal access to public education to homeless students.
Scholastic reported federal grants only go to 3,000 of the country's 15,000 school districts, with most having to give homeless youth the quality of education set by the law without any federal assistance.
Hopefully, students everywhere will see Furlong and Melson's journeys and be inspired to persevere.
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