Tupac Mosley is 17, dedicated, and believes fiercely in his own future. He’s right to; the graduating senior has been accepted to more than 40 colleges and universities and won scholarships totaling around $3 million. He’s valedictorian of his class at Raleigh Egypt High School in Memphis, Tennessee, top of approximately 250 students with a GPA of 4.3.

Mosley’s achievement is profound for anyone. But he did it while going through immense personal upheaval. Mosley, like a growing number of students in the country, completed his senior year while homeless.

“After my father passed, we fell behind on bills and we ended up getting evicted from our home,” said Mosley. After that, he and his family couch surfed until they were offered temporary lodging at For the Kingdom, a camping site near his school.

For the Kingdom is a camping site and nonprofit organization that helps provide positive direction and focus to children and teens in Memphis.

An estimated 1.3 million enrolled public school students in the United States are homeless. Students without secure homes are prone to poor attendance and chronic absences, more likely to fail courses and vastly more likely to perform below grade level. It’s largely an invisible problem on paper. Only five states (and Tennessee is not one) report statistics correlating homelessness and education. And those that do, paint a bleak picture. In Washington State, for example, the grade gap between homeless students and the overall average is 31 percent.

Mosley’s performance should be lauded regardless of his circumstances. Only incredibly hard work and dedicated focus achieves the kinds of grades, awards, and acceptance letters he’s earned. But circumstance placed an immense hurdle in his path, and he soared straight over it.

“Never let your current situation, whatever circumstances you’re going through, be a mountain that you can’t climb,” said Mosley in his valedictorian’s speech on May 21.

Out of the more than three dozen schools which accepted him, Mosley has chosen to attend Tennessee State University. He starts there this autumn, planning to major in electrical engineering.

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