Although we can all agree that high school was some of the finest years of our life, we can also all agree that it wasn’t always easy. Having to deal with pop quizzes and bullies while navigating puberty is enough to make even the most composed adolescent cry.
Imagine being homeless and dealing with all of the regular adolescent troubles yet still maintaining a good enough GPA to graduate valedictorian. In 2014, an 18-year-old student from Florida Coast High School in Jacksonville did just that.
Griffin Furlong gave his final address as a high school student in front of his graduating class, much like other valedictorians throughout the country. What he stated astounded both parents and educators.
Griffin informed the audience that everyone thought he was clever since he did well in school. In actuality, he didn’t have much of a choice. Griffin stood to lose everything. Griffin’s mother died when he was six years old from cancer. Griffin and his brother were raised by his father, who struggled to work and raise them. The family eventually found up in a homeless shelter.
The Furlongs did live in a rented property for a while, but they were finally evicted. Griffin spoke of going to bed hungry and not knowing where his next meal would come from throughout his address. He was never given the opportunity to have a normal upbringing. He recalls being treated as if he were less than human, and it was then that he resolved to make something of himself.
Griffin realized that a good education would benefit him in the long run, so he persisted and graduated valedictorian. Take a peek at his motivational narrative.
Griffin understood the importance of education in achieving a better life. He was weary of going to bed and hoped he wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night. Griffin channeled all of his energy into studying after this discovery, and he graduated with a 4.65 GPA, according to People. Griffin had to deliver a speech to his class, as all valedictorians do. In order to inspire others, he opted to be vulnerable and open up about his story to his classmates and professors.
Griffin gives a section of his graduation address in an emotional footage posted by ABC News, saying, “I perform the way that I do in the classroom because I have everything to lose.” Griffin ended his lecture by encouraging his audience to live their lives with meaning. In an interview with Today, the young man stated:
“Just remember to never give up… Never let someone tell you that you can’t do anything; I’ve heard it my entire life.
People used to tell me I wasn’t clever, but today I’m at the top of my class.”
He is living proof that if you are driven, motivated, and have a goal, everything is achievable. Griffin’s admission that he was homeless surprised not only his peers, but also his professors, who were taken aback by his remarks. Griffin’s mathematics instructor, Jennifer Stover, told NBC News that the faculty was aware of Griffin’s troubles at home, but they had no idea how serious they were. He never used his circumstances as an excuse, and he always had a cheerful attitude in class.
Griffin believed that by sharing his experience, other children facing difficulty will be inspired. His classmates, on the other hand, wanted him to know that he was already an inspiration to them. Griffin’s pals created a GoFundMe campaign when he fell behind on his tuition at Florida State University. They collected about $40,000 in total to help him pay his tuition, and the institution stated they would contribute as well.
He even got a place to stay with his girlfriend’s family, who granted him a room while he was finishing his studies. “He’s not defined by what happened to him,” Jennifer McCall, his girlfriend’s mother, noted. Griffin said that after alerting the school about his circumstances, he was able to breathe a sense of relief, telling Today:
“It has really relieved some of the strain on my shoulders. I don’t just approach strangers and say, “Hey, I’m homeless.”
It’s a difficult task. Only a few of my closest friends are aware of all that has occurred.”
Despite the difficulties and triumphing over them, Griffin and his brother Sean grew closer as a result of the scenario.
Sean, who was about to graduate from Florida State University when Griffin was valedictorian, told Today how it drew the brothers closer together:
“I couldn’t tell my pals what I was going through when I was going through it… Because I couldn’t bring them to my place, it was mostly just Griffin and me, and we did everything together, especially baseball. He’s simply a ruthless guy. Despite the fact that he is younger than me, I still look up to him.”
Griffin is a remarkable young man, and his tale has inspired many people.