Homeless High School Student Inspires in Valedictory Address

Rashema Melson will attend Georgetown University on a full scholarship.

ByABC News
June 12, 2014, 11:07 AM

June 12, 2014 -- Rashema Melson will begin her studies as a freshman at Georgetown University this fall after three years of living in a Washington, D.C., homeless shelter. And her tireless determination has paid off in the form of a full scholarship.

"It hasn't hit me yet, to be honest," she said today of the realization that high school has come to an end.

Melson, 18, says she has refused to let her family’s misfortune define her. Not only is the teen a dedicated athlete, but she has also maintained a sterling academic record, delivering the valedictory address Wednesday at Anacostia High School.

Her speech celebrated the achievements of fellow classmates, but it also spoke to the hardships that she has endured. "I started to give up,” she told them. “But then God gave me a sign that he wasn't putting me through this to punish me, but to show others how to be resilient and persistent in the goals of life."

Melson has been living in the D.C. General Homeless Shelter in a single room that she shares with her mother and two brothers.Her determination evidently impressed the admissions office at Georgetown.

Her sister, Desiree Brown, has no doubt that Melson will continue to succeed as she pursues her ambitions. As Brown told ABC affiliate WJLA-TV in Washington, "We motivate her to keep up the good work. We just want her dreams to come true."

Melson has moved a few steps closer.

"Hopefully,” she told ABC News, ”I'll just do my best.”