Homeless student defies the odds to graduate as valedictorian

Dollita Okine June 03, 2024
Hogan was one of his class's two valedictorians, graduating with a final GPA of 3.93. Photo Credit: GMA/Collegiate Academies

While residing in Covenant House, a homeless shelter for young people under 22 in New Orleans, Elijah Hogan graduated at the top of his class from Walter L. Cohen High School.

The 19-year-old told Good Morning America, “It’s been tough and rough, had a few trips and falls down, [but] I’m alright.”  He started his high school education during COVID-19, attending remote classes. Nevertheless, Hogan was one of his class’s two valedictorians, graduating with a final GPA of 3.93.

Although he admitted to being anxious when he first started school, he stated, “As time went on, I started to build up relationships, had to meet some wonderful people, got to know a lot of people, as well as forming relationships and trust with them.”

He referred to his valedictorian speech on May 24 as a “thank-you note” to those who helped him to succeed. They include Jana DeCoster, the director of student activities at Cohen High School; Jarkayla Cobb, Hogan’s Rites of Passage case worker at Covenant House; and the students and staff of his school.

DeCoster said, “All of our students experience different levels of trauma, different experiences, and I think Elijah recognizes, like, yes, he had adults in his corner, but all of our students who made it to graduation also had adults in their corner and it is rare that they get thanked at graduation on such a large stage… the fact that he is so gracious to think of, again, not just himself, he’s thinking of all of his classmates, that’s just really special.”

Cobb added that despite the pain of homelessness, she has witnessed an improvement in the teen since meeting him in 2023. “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.”

After deciding to major in graphic design at Xavier University of Louisiana, Hogan—who likes to read nonfiction and create art—is now prepared to start his collegiate career.

He encouraged others, “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.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 3, 2024


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