News: Homeless High School Students Take Top Marks, Graduate Despite Challenges

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Summer time means graduation and transitions, but for two Black students, it’s going to be a much larger change to their world. First up, CBS Atlanta reports …

Sunday morning at Booker T. Washington High School, hundreds of seniors lined up for an academic awards ceremony. All the students are smart and special, but maybe none more so than Fred Dukes.

With a 3.0 grade point average and a score of 24 out of 36 on the ACT test, teachers said he’s plenty smart. And he accomplished all that despite being homeless and without family support.

“I am very proud I stuck with it and didn’t give up,” said Dukes.

Two years ago, Duke’s stepmother moved back to South Carolina for a job, but he stayed behind. But he said that meant going about life alone and staying with any friend he could.

“Me and my friend Malcolm kind of compromised to where I could lay my head on his back porch if I needed to,” said Dukes.

But last Christmas, Dukes said things hit rock bottom. He ended up staying at a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta and nearly lost everything.

“I got into an altercation with a couple other people that were staying here and they wanted to take my stuff, my belongings,” said Dukes.

Dukes sold candy in the hallways of school to make money – until he was caught. One night he went to meet a friend for a job, but things went bad. Duke’s meeting went longer than expected and as a result, he said he missed the last train at the Lindbergh Marta Station. With no money for a cab and no one to call, he said he did what he had to do. He walked to Oakland City in southwest Atlanta. That’s a 10-mile walk that started at midnight and ended at 3:30 a.m. But he made it to class on time.

“It’s a lot. It’s a lot for an adult, and then to see a child do this? Yes it’s a lot,” said Leyanna Lloyd, Dukes’ science teacher.

“He would just tell me stuff and I would sit there with a straight face and then I would end up crying after he left because he has been through a lot, but he never said he was giving up, ever,” said Lloyd.

Dukes said friendship help him make it through.

“Me and Fred had similar things going on at home that’s bad and good so we could help each other out because we can understand each other’s issues,” said Malcolm Candidate, Dukes’ friend.

Dukes wasn’t the only student left out in the cold by family challenges. The Grio explains …

When his family split up in the summer after eighth grade, David Boone, a Cleveland student from MC2STEM High School, spent many nights sleeping on park benches. During the times that he was homeless, Boone stayed out of trouble, out of a gang, and applied to 23 universities. He was accepted to 22 of them, including Ivy Leagues schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania. Cleveland.com reports that Boone landed a Gates Millennium Scholarship, which will cover all of his college costs not covered already by his current financial aid.

David Boone had a system.

There wasn’t much the then-15-year-old could do about the hookers or drug deals around him when he slept in Artha Woods Park. And the spectator’s bench at the park’s baseball diamond wasn’t much of a bed.

But the aspiring engineer, now 18 and headed to Harvard University in the fall, had no regular home. Though friends, relatives and school employees often put him up, there were nights when David had no place to go, other than the park off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

So he says he made the best of those nights on the wooden bench.

His book bag became his pillow, stuffed with textbooks first — for height, he says — and papers on top for padding.

In the morning, David would duck into his friend Eric’s house after Eric’s parents left early for work so he could shower and dress before heading to class at Cleveland’s specialized MC2STEM High School. David expects to graduate from there next month as salutatorian of the new school’s first graduating class.

“I’d do my homework in a rapid station, usually Tower City since they have heat, and I’d stay wherever I could find,” he said.

If you meet David Boone today, his gentle, confident demeanor and easygoing laugh betray no cockiness over racking up a college acceptance record that others brag about for him. He was accepted at 22 of the 23 schools he applied to — including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown and Penn.

The stories of these two heroic teenagers reminds us all that nothing is impossible, and giving up is never a good idea.

[Source: CBS Atlanta, The Grio]

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