Teen Graduates Top Of His Class After 12 Years Spent Homeless Because He Has 'Everything To Lose'

Jan 13, 2022 by apost team

High school may have been some of the best days of our lives, but we can all agree that it wasn't always easy. Dealing with pop quizzes and bullies while navigating through puberty is enough to bring the most levelheaded adolescent to tears.

Imagine being homeless coping with all the typical teenage tribulations and still maintaining a GPA high enough to become valedictorian. That's exactly what an 18-year-old attending Florida Coast High School in Jacksonville did in 2014.

Much like other valedictorians across the country, Griffin Furlong stood before his graduating class and delivered his final speech as a high school student. What he said shocked parents and faculty alike. 

Griffin told the crowd that everyone thought he excelled at school because he was smart. The reality is that he had no other choice. Griffin had everything to lose. Griffin's mother died of cancer when he was six years old. His father struggled to work and raise Griffin and his brother. Eventually, the family ended up living in a homeless shelter.

The Furlong family did spend some time living in a rental property, but they were eventually evicted. During his speech, Griffin recalled going to bed hungry and not knowing where his next meal would come from. He never experienced a real childhood. He remembers being treated as though he was less than a human being, and that's when he decided to make something of himself.

Griffin knew that a solid education would help him in life and so he persevered and wound up graduating as valedictorian. Let's take a look at his inspiring story. 

Be sure to reach the end of this article to see the full video

Griffin knew that education was the key to a better life. He was tired of going to sleep at night, hoping he wouldn't wake up. After this realization, Griffin directed all of his energy towards studying and ended up graduating with an impressive 4.65 GPA, reported People. As all valedictorians do, Griffin had to give a speech to his class. He chose to be vulnerable and open up to his classmates and teachers about his story, in a bid to inspire others. 

In a moving clip shared by ABC News, Griffin reads a portion of his valedictorian speech, stating, "I perform the way that I do in the classroom because I have everything to lose." Griffin concluded his speech by telling his peers to live their lives with purpose. Speaking with Today, the young man said:

"Just never give up ... Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something, because I've been told that all my life. People would tell me I wasn't smart enough, and now I'm here at the top of my class." 

He is living proof that anything is possible when you are ambitious, motivated and have a purpose. But Griffin's revelation that he was homeless wasn't just a surprise to his classmates but also his teachers, who were stunned when they heard his speech. Jennifer Stover, Griffin's calculus teacher, told NBC News that the faculty knew Griffin had problems at home, but they never realized how bad it was. He never used his situation as an excuse, and he always came to class with a positive attitude. 


Griffin hoped his story would inspire other kids who are dealing with adversity. What's more, his classmates wanted him to know that he was already an inspiration to them. So, when Griffin came up short on his tuition to Florida State University, his friends started a GoFundMe campaign. In total, they raised nearly $40,000 to help him pay his tuition, and the university also said they'd help cover costs.

He even found a home with his girlfriend's family, who gave him a room as he was graduating. Jennifer McCall, the mom of his girlfriend, explained, "He's not defined by what happened to him." After telling the school about his situation, Griffin revealed he could breathe a little sigh of relief, telling Today:

"It's definitely taken a little weight off my shoulders. I don't just walk up to people and say, 'Hey, I'm homeless.' It's a hard thing to do. Only a few of my best friends know everything that has ever happened." 

And despite the hardships and rising above them, the situation did bring Griffin and his brother Sean even closer together. Sean, who was set to graduate from Florida State University at the time that Griffin was graduating as valedictorian, described to Today how it brought the brothers closer:

"When I was going through that, I couldn't tell my friends what I was going through ... I couldn't invite them to my house, so it was mainly just me and Griffin, and we did everything together, baseball especially.  He's just a really tough individual. He's younger than me, but I still look up to him." 

Griffin is an incredible young man and his story is an inspiration to many.   

What do you think of this young man's accomplishment? It really shows that hard work pays off, don't you think? Spread the word about this incredible young man by showing this story to your friends and family!

If you or anybody you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please call Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free, and confidential support for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

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