Jacksonville Teen Becomes Class Valedictorian Despite Experiencing Homelessness

Martin Folsom has overcome difficulties to become the senior class valedictorian, and he will be the first in his family to attend college.

Martin Folsom’s tale is one of success over adversity, both financially and socially. Despite adversity after adversity, including being homeless and living in a shelter with his mother, Folsom had one goal in mind: to make sense of his life.

Martin Folsom, a graduating senior at A. I. Dupont High School in Jacksonville, Florida, has become a shining example of the ancient adage “You can do anything you set your mind to,” according to Action News Jacksonville. Despite experiencing homelessness during his scholastic years, Philip Randolph Career Academies was named class valedictorian with a 4.06-grade point average.

“It’s been a rocky road, a lot of hardships. But seeing myself now about to graduate, about to go to college—it feels good knowing all the stuff I’ve done was worth it,” In a video honoring the class of 2020 at Duval County Public Schools, Folsom says. Folsom told reporters that he is the first member of his family to graduate from high school. And he’s able to do it because he and his mother persevered through a variety of challenges.

Despite spending time in shelters, Folsom says he was class president from freshman to senior year and was turned to by his peers for support and counsel. He credits his mother, as well as many others in his life, for sacrificing time and money and putting in the effort to assist him to achieve his goal of graduating at the top of his class.

Folsom is the president of the Florida Public Safety Association and the president of SkillsUSA outside of school (a career and technical student organization). He’s a member of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Beyond School Walls program. For the past four years, Folsom has also served as class president.

Folsom would have strolled across the stage and provided an encouraging word to his classmates if it hadn’t been for the epidemic. Despite being denied the opportunity, he put on his cap and gown for the cameras, stating that donning the ceremonial garb gave him “a jolt” in his chest, which he described as “a good feeling.” He may not have had an official moment at the podium to address his fellow 2020 classmates, but he did have this message for them: “Take advantage of any opportunity you can because you never know where it’s going to take you.” 

“He’s such a special guy, and he’s a great student,” principal Cathy Barnes told “GMA.” “He has a big heart for his fellow students, their future and making sure they’re an amazing generation.”

Folsom was a student at A. Philip Randolph Career Academy’s criminal justice program and aspires to work for the FBI.

Martin Folsom intends to attend Valdosta State University to study accounting and finance.

May Folsom’s story ignite the hope in everyone’s heart that despite the difficulties, we can always rise above the occasion and be the best we can be.

Written by Staff

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