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Jacksonville Teen Becomes Class Valedictorian Despite Experiencing Homelessness

Martin Folsom has overcome hurdles to become the valedictorian of his senior class. He'll be the first person in his family to attend college.

A Jacksonville, Florida, teen has become a shining example of the old adage “You can do anything you set your mind to.” According to Action News Jacksonville, Martin Folsom, a graduating senior at A. Philip Randolph Career Academies, secured the title of class valedictorian despite having bouts of homelessness throughout his academic years.

“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,” Folsom says in a video highlighting Duval County Public Schools’ class of 2020. Folsom told reporters that he’s the first person from his family to attend college. And he’s able to do so because he persevered through a number of hardships he and his mother faced. 

Despite having spent time living in shelters, Folsom shares that he served as class president from his freshman through senior year, and was looked at by his peers as a resource for help and advice. He credits his mother as well as many other people around him for sacrificing time and money and putting forth effort to help him get to the top of his class.

Jacksonville Teen Becomes Class Valedictorian Despite Experiencing Homelessness

If it weren’t for the pandemic, Folsom would have walked across the stage and offered an encouraging word to his peers. Though the opportunity was taken away from him, he still put on his cap and gown for Action News cameras and noted that donning the ceremonious garb gave him “a jolt” in his chest, calling it “a good feeling.” And he may not have an official moment at the podium to address his fellow 2020 classmates, but he did have this to say to them: “Take advantage of any opportunity you can because you never know where it’s going to take you.”

Martin Folsom plans to study accounting and finance at Valdosta State.