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Saturday, June 22, 2024

19-year-old homeless boy beats colleagues to become high school’s best student, wins full-ride scholarship to US university

A homeless 19-year-old boy named Elijah Hogan has beaten all of his high school colleagues to earn the best graduating student award in the school.

Elijah, from Houston, became homeless a year before he graduated from high school. However, despite the challenges, he graduated from Walter L. Cohen High School, New Orleans in the United States with a 3.93 grade point average.

He was one of four Black male students who was awarded the valedictorian status at his school. Elijah expressed disbelief about his achievement, having gone through challenges most of his senior year.

“I thought they were mistaking me for someone else, but when I looked at it and I was shown evidence that it was me, I was in awe, like, I was jaw dropped,” he said.

 

 

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Elijah previously lived with his grandmother since he was 11 but he became homeless after the lease on his grandmother’s house expired when the homeowner decided to sell the property.

He stated that he and his grandmother were given 30 days to vacate the house. “From there, I made the executive decision to live on my own to lighten my grandmother’s burden,” he said.

He said while his grandmother went to live in a care home for the elderly, he was left with nowhere to stay until his grandmother told him about the Covenant House, a homeless shelter in New Orleans serving youth and young adults ages 16-22.

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The program allows young people to stay at the shelter for up to 24 months rent-free, giving them an opportunity to focus on education or to save money while working. Elijah has since then been living at the Covenant House.

“Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my high school years, giving me a place to stay, a place to eat, a place to sleep. I wouldn’t have been able to be where I’m at now,” he said.

Giving his valedictorian speech, Elijah said dealing with homelessness while completing his education was challenging but he found support from the homeless shelter’s employees and his high school’s staff.

“As time went on, I started to open up to people over at Covenant House as well as Cohen, people were there to support me and give me a guiding hand. Without them, I wouldn’t have become who I am today,” he said.

He attributes his success to his Covenant House case manager, Jarkayla Cobb, for not giving up on him. “She helped me get through it even when I was showing a lack of faith in myself. She’s been there no matter what I needed,” she said.

Elijah stated that losing his mother at the age of 12 encouraged him to push forward with his education for his grandmother’s sake. Advising others who faced similar challenges and situations, Elijah urged them to keep pushing forward and also stand strong.

“You are the bulldozer that could break your limitations. That’s my advice. Just don’t let it hold you back or put you down. Keep pushing forward without any doubts in mind,” Elijah said.

“To any race, no matter what color or accent you have, you are your own guiding light. You are your own storybook that you write. Let yourself be the pen that you write on paper,” he added.

Elijah plans to attend Xavier University in  on a full-ride scholarship majoring in graphic design. He said he wants to publish his first comic book when he graduates from college.

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