Managing to become a high-school valedictorian is enough of a task in and of itself, but HowAfrica reports on one teenager who managed to do it, despite being homeless and living out of a shelter at one point. Tallya Rhodes of H.D. Woodson High School in Washington D.C., at one point, had to live in a rat-infested shelter run out of a Days Inn along with her sister and mother, Sebrena Rhodes.
“There were times where it was easier to quit than to keep going but I knew I couldn’t. I knew I had to keep pushing and keep striving. That’s how I’m able to stand before you today as the valedictorian of the 2018 graduating class,” Tallya said during her valedictorian speech. Originally, the family lived in a trailer park in Salisbury, North Carolina, where Sebrena was a victim of domestic abuse. She would end up escaping from her spouse.
“I heard my mom screaming saying, ‘Get out, get out, call the police,’ and then I heard her screaming like she was being pulled somewhere so I ran out of my room and the person she was with was outside the window pulling her outside the window. And that was the first time I’d seen that and it was kind of hard,” Tallya told WJLA. The three packed up and never returned to the trailer, but after plans to stay with family in Washington, D.C., fell through, they had to live in a shelter, with one bathroom for five people. While she was struggling quietly in the background, Tallya still pushed through with focusing on her academics. Even while many of her fellow students didn’t know what was going on, teachers supported her with clothes or the occasional hot meal.
“There were a lot of teachers here that were just there for me since the beginning and they never stopped caring about me,” the valedictorian said. “I don’t want to be stopped. I don’t want any challenges to make me feel like I’m less than what I am and to feel like I need to accept less than what I should or deserve. Watching my mom go through what we went through I knew I never wanted to be in that situation,” she added.
For Sebrena, this success is a source of strength and motivation. “Tallya being the valedictorian it’s like the best feeling in the world. I’m just, I don’t know… I don’t know… I’m just excited.” She eventually found a home for she and her family to move to after being homeless for a year. “I’m just happy. I’m relieved. It’s been a struggle. It was all worth it.” Tallya will be attending Concord University in West Virginia on a full ride scholarship in the fall.