updated 05/28/2014 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 05/29/2014 AT 9:50 AM ET
High school is difficult for nearly everyone, but few have had a harder four years than Griffin Furlong.
Tragedy struck the Jacksonville student when he was just a child. When he was 6, his mother died of leukemia. Shortly thereafter, he became homeless.
Furlong lived alongside his father and brother in a shelter in Kentucky before moving to Florida, where they were kept financially afloat – barely – thanks to contributions from their extended family. Still, the specter of falling back into homelessness loomed over the trio.
“A kid shouldn’t have to go through that,” Furlong told local news station WPTV.
Throughout his struggle, Griffin worked hard in the classroom, and never missed a day of school. The effort paid off, earning him a 4.65 GPA that made him his class valedictorian.
Unfortunately, more bad luck struck: In April, Furlong became homeless once again. Fortunately, he was able to stay with his girlfriend’s family for a few weeks, before being taken in by his aunt and uncle.
He will graduate on June 4, at the top of his class – without a home.
“I knew I was going to be poor for the rest of my life,” he told Today, “so I thought if I could continue to do well in school, eventually scholarships would be coming my way and I would be getting a free education.”
Furlong will attend Florida State University in the fall, but he has not yet received the scholarships needed to be able to afford it. (He has received a few need-based grants.)
Fortunately friends stepped in, setting up a GoFundMe account where Furlong could receive donations from the public. In six days, the homeless valedictorian collected an astonishing $26,000 – finally, some good luck.
Like us on Facebook for more stories like this!