Homeless Teenager Becomes High School Valedictorian ABC13 Houston via Youtube
ABC13 Houston via Youtube

Martin Folsom just graduated valedictorian of his high school class at Philip Randolph Career Academy in Jacksonville, Florida. However, his path to becoming the top of his class wasn’t at all easy. But this Florida teen refused to let any of that get in the way of his big dreams. And he’s definitely not done.

Ever since he was a child, senior Martin Folsom and his mother Melva have had a lot of hardships. Fleeing her ex-husband, Melva and her son lived in different homeless shelters across 5 different states within a matter of 2 years. WJXT reported that her ex-husband is currently serving a 40-year prison sentence for murder after a drug deal went wrong. Nevertheless, finally settling in Jacksonville unfortunately still didn’t mean their rocky road would finally smoothen out.

In Jacksonville, Folsom and his mother became homeless two more times, while he was in 9th and 11th grade. But that didn’t stop the homeless student from keeping his spot as class valedictorian. Not only was he the top student at Philip Randolph Career Academy for all four years of high school, but he was also the class president from freshman to senior year.

Melva remembers the struggle of looking for places to live while continuing to encourage and teach her son to persevere through tough times. “Martin and I were in downtown McDonald’s and literally had nowhere to go. I was on the phone calling people, calling organizations, and by the grace of God, we got into a shelter that day.” She also explained to WJXT, “I just constantly kept pushing him to be better, and not necessarily to be No. 1, but to be better.”

Folsom detailed to WJXT how he never lost motivation, “I never thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ or ‘I’m done with this. It’s always been, ‘Well, it happened again and I’ve gotta keep myself up and keep moving forward. He also added, “At my school, there are a lot of other smart people there too. And if I let myself slip, they would take it from me in a second.”

Folsom plans to get his college degree from Valdosta State University in Georgia, starting in the fall. His dream is to work for the FBI, and there’s no doubt that he can achieve his dreams. The valedictorian shared some encouraging words to remember for those who feel like all odds are preventing them from reaching their own goals, “Tell them to dream big,” he continues, “Think about something that you really want, and think about how good you’re gonna feel once you accomplish that.”


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Lauren Pineda is a writer with a background in music journalism and pop culture. Her best writing comes from her passion for storytelling and connecting her audience. She lives and breathes any live music show or art event and enjoys listening to peoples’ stories.
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