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Online supporters pay for homeless teen's college tuition

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:



"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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Join the discussion

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karen July 11 2014 at 7:09 AM

If education was free in this country as it is in "more advanced" countries in Europe, the COUNTRY benefits. Advanced education should not only be for the rich.

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6 replies
Joel July 11 2014 at 8:40 AM

Thank you for this article!! My hope in humanity is restored! Best of luck to that young man.. May he achieve his goals and dreams, and hopefully, someday, he will return the blessing by being a blessing to other people.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
1 reply
Kate Joel July 11 2014 at 8:32 PM

I agree, and I'm sure he will. Engineering is a profession that helps others; it is literally a 'foundation' profession, without which nothing can be built. It's clear that he knows the importance of having a solid foundation-- he had to make his own.

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d1anaw July 11 2014 at 11:13 AM

That is awesome. We need more kids who are willing to work this hard to reach their goals, and fewer of those who stand around holding their hands out waiting for someone to do everything for them.

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1 reply
Janet Welsh d1anaw July 11 2014 at 11:20 PM

Exactly. So why are we giving billions of $$$ to Obama to bring thousands of illegal kids into this country when we have 16,000 homeless kids in our own schools who are good students and just want a chance to get an education and improve their lives.

Get real America. You are getting screwed - big time!

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tropicalriderceo July 11 2014 at 10:28 AM

I am mostly disgusted by the nasty comments or political diatribes that posters feel it necessary to post...can't you...just once...tell this young man bravo! and thank all the wonderful people who have elected to help him on his way? Not every opinion you have is a pearl...sometimes a kind word is worth more than all the terribly important opinions you think you have.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
Georgia A McD July 11 2014 at 10:26 AM

Bless him. If he had been illegal, he would have been taken care of,,,,,,, What hypocrits we have in our national government.

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3 replies
What's up Jacky July 11 2014 at 8:47 AM

too bad there aren't more of his type.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
1 reply
Kate What's up Jacky July 11 2014 at 8:34 PM

As a matter of fact, there are. There are millions of them. Not all of them are homeless, but many are very close to the edge.

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plansmaker July 11 2014 at 10:31 AM

This story really hits home to all college bound student and parents...
Go America. we love you.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Marcie July 11 2014 at 8:09 AM

It's disgusting that there are over a million homeless students in America, and that they have to have their college tuition paid by the charity of others. But at least some rich pig got their 5th vacation home. That's where all the money goes.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
5 replies
ikibobo July 11 2014 at 11:42 AM

THIS SHOULDN'T BE HAPPENING! Homelessness in America? It's sad and now it's affecting our children. Our kids should not have these troubles on top of everything else. This young man is an inspiration that maybe all is not lost, but this country needs to get it's act together. Prioritize!

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2 replies
Kate ikibobo July 11 2014 at 8:39 PM

It's been affecting children and young people for decades. Homelessness didn't begin yesterday, and the numbers of homeless youth have been steadily rising for just as long. There are some organizations out there that do good work; you might like to look into Covenant House as a starting point.

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paula9002 ikibobo July 11 2014 at 11:19 PM

Both of the kids in the story deserve all the praise they get for their achievements. The problem is that they should not have had to overcome such things at their ages. It is heartbreaking. I would have not thought it available until seeing how quickly they came to the aid of the kids over running the border. If they had vacant bases and money that could be had to clothe and feed them and pay for them to go to school, why were those things not provided to the American kids that are homeless here and have been for some time. They even go so far as to say that only 3000 school districts out of 15,000 receive federal grants to help in the education of these kids. It is a travesty that they can jump through hoops and screech about humanitarian efforts when this is how we treat our own kids. How can these "representatives" look at themselves in the mirror? And that is on BOTH sides because this is one bipartisan thing they have successfully done...failed a huge segment of our kids.

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fullsrvlaw July 11 2014 at 8:37 AM

Than you, Ronald Reagan. Before, Reagan, we had only a tiny percentage of our general population were homeless. Those people were mostly hardcore drug addicts and alcoholics. Then came "trickle down economics" and voila, homeless people. This is the legacy of the right wing Republicans who are unwilling to do anything for anyone who is not a millionaire or billionaire. Vote in November and vote all incumbents out of office.

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6 replies
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