It has been a big week for a Florida high school valedictorian, after spending the past several years living in homeless shelters since his mother passed away.
Although Griffin Furlong’s life had been filled with turmoil, he stayed motivated. He even inscribed his motto “never give up” on the rim of his baseball caps.
The 18 year-old finished with a 4.65-grade point average, and plans to study engineering at Florida State University.
Few educators and classmates knew about Griffin’s difficult upbringing until he was named First Coast High School valedictorian.
He and his brother Sean lived in numerous homeless shelters with their father and often went without food as young children.
“I had to grow up fast [after Mom died when I was 6,]” he said according to the Daily Mail. “I have seen things that kids would not ever see in their lives.”
Griffin had a tough time living in shelters since he witnessed his father being physically beaten and sleeping on an empty stomach.
“I do not take anything for granted anymore,” he said according to the publication.
Before final exams Griffin found himself back in a shelter, which caused significant anxiety.
The youngster still performed well in his exams because his girlfriend’s family temporarily accommodated him while his relatives searched for housing.
“I know that I have everything to lose so I just push myself,” he said.
Griffin often felt isolated from peers as a result of his unusual upbringing. He could not invite friends over since he stayed in homeless shelters, and had to catch a different bus to school.
“A lot of kids made fun of me but I did not let that interfere with what I did in school,” he said. “I had a plan–just make good grades and do not worry about anyone else but my family.”
Despite Griffin’s difficult upbringing, he has never missed a day of school since realizing he had no other option but to put in the effort.
It dawned on him that if he did well in school, he would ultimately receive scholarships and attend college for free.
“I realized I was doomed to poverty,” he said.
He revealed his mother’s memory motivated both him and older brother Sean, who has already graduated from Florida State University.
“I could not tell my friends what I was going through,” the 21 year-old said. “It was mainly just me and Griffin, and we did everything together, baseball especially.”
After maintaining a good grade point average, Griffin won multiple academic scholarships to help cover his college expenses.
His story inspired many friends and strangers to donate to a Go Fund Me page set up on Griffin’s behalf. Within two weeks the page collected more than $91,000 towards his college fund. The page has since been taken offline.