Homeless teen graduates as high school valedictorian


My kind of hero

Despite a life of adversity, poverty, and even homelessness, 18-year-old Chelesa Fearce is blazing a trail of academic success. Growing up in Clayton County, Georgia, Chelesa, along with her mother and three siblings, frequently moved from shelter to shelter, even living in her family’s car in times of need.

Regardless of the obstacles in the way, Chelesa stayed focused on her goals: scoring high marks in high school and attending a good college.

Thursday Chelesa graduated with a 4.529 GPA from Charles Drew High School in Clayton County, making her class valedictorian. Thanks to taking college courses for the past two years, Chelesa will enter Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia later this year as a junior.

During Chelesa’s high school years, her mother, Reenita Shepard, was laid off from her job more than once, resulting in the family losing their home. But Chelesa stayed focused on her studies even when bouncing from shelter to shelter, or on those most difficult nights spent in the car.

“At night I just had to open my book in the dark and use my cellphone light, just do what I had to do,” she said…

Chelesa admitted that she faced many struggles and at times found it difficult to maintain a positive spirit. “It was hard sometimes. I kept my situation a secret because I didn’t want anyone to know my business; I just went to school and did what I had to do.” Still, there were times it could all be overwhelming. “Senior year was a lot, you know with applying for schools, scholarships and standardized tests and I’d want to sit back and just kick it and relax but I knew I had things to accomplish.”

Part of what kept Chelesa going was her mother. “She works very very hard and I made sure I was doing the same, if not more. She was always helping me out and was such a great support so I had to do it for her,” she said. Shepard often read to Chelesa and her siblings at a young age. “I remember her reading Mrs. Nelson Went Missing, Are You My Mother, a lot of Dr. Seuss. She developed my love for reading at a very early age,” Chelesa said.

Another example of what someone might accomplish in spite of the reactionary old farts in charge of American politics. Neither the federal government nor the hacks in the Georgia State House do the young folks of our nation any great amount of good. Whether it’s education or opportunity the kids who are the future of the United States have to battle past the handicaps generously provided by politicians loyal only to the corporate barons who own their sorry hide.

Special congratulations to young Miss Chelesa Fearce. She proved the strength of a real American in the face of obstacles created by the worst of our culture.

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