Homeless Student Graduates As High School Valedictorian

    A young man has successfully navigated his studies while living at a homeless shelter. The student, Elijah Hogan, graduated as valedictorian at his Louisiana high school. 

    Hogan lived in Covenant House, a homeless shelter for young people, as he sought to obtain his high school diploma. The student started classes at Walter L. Cohen High School remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also faced even more worries at home. However, he believes his community at the shelter and his school inspired him to keep going.

    In his speech at the school’s commencement ceremony on May 24, Hogan thanked his community for helping him reach this accomplishment. He was one of two valedictorians, ending his matriculation with a 3.93 GPA. 

    Elijah Hogan graduated from Walter L. Cohen High School as valedictorian. Hogan is pictured with Cohen High School Principal Rhonda Dale. Collegiate Academies

    “The speech in itself was more of a thank-you letter to the school, to the staff, to the students and to their parents for helping us to get past our school years and get us where we are now graduating, going off in the world,”  expressed Hogan to Good Morning America. 

    The newly- crowned valedictorian struggled at the beginning of his high school experiences, with the adults in his lives noticing his growth from a shy young boy to a capable young man. His case worker at Covenant House, Jarkayla Cobb, noted how he overcame his traumatic life shift to reach newopportunities. 

    “He was very shy. He had very little words at first, so it’s just awesome to see how much he’s developed and become so well-spoken over the last seven or eight months that I’ve been a part of his life and just been able to push and encourage him to go after everything that the world has to offer,” explained Cobb. 

    Homelessness has surged in Louisiana in recent years, especially in the Black community. According to Axios, homelessness in its most populous city of New Orleans rose by 7% for Black individuals. Nationwide, the amount of unhoused, unaccompanied youth also had a 15% increase, per the Louisiana Weekly

    However, the 19-year-old’s journey speaks to the importance of holistic support for those struggling with homelessness. He encouraged young people to remain committed to their education no matter the obstacles. 

    He added, “There is a time and place where you can have fun, but try to keep yourself organized on some of your education as well, because without your education, you will not be able to get through the hardships and meet the people that helped you along the way.”

    Hogan will continue his academic journey at an HBCU, Xavier University of Louisiana. There, the valedictorian hopes to pursue a degree in graphic design.

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