Homeless Youth Triumphs, Becomes Valedictorian Amidst Adversity


In the heart of New Orleans, a young man’s tale of resilience and determination is making waves. Elijah Hogan, who once called a youth homeless shelter home, has ascended from the harsh realities of life on the streets to the highest academic echelon of his high school graduating class.

Recently, Hogan celebrated the closure of one life chapter and the beginning of another. From his unassuming beginnings in the homeless shelter, he’s graduated as valedictorian from Walter L. Cohen Charter High School. The year he spent within the shelter’s walls only fueled his ambition.

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Navigating the stormy seas of life proved challenging, yet Hogan managed to steer the course of his life. “Life’s been tough and rough,” Hogan admitted in an interview with Good Morning America, but he added with fortitude, “I’m alright.”

The 19-year-old’s journey of perseverance began at the tender age of eight when his mother passed away. Initially, he found sanctuary with his grandmother. However, life’s relentless twists led him to the doorstep of Covenant House – a shelter for the homeless, just before his senior year of high school.

Hogan’s unyielding willpower never wavered. Amid housing insecurities, he pushed forward, graduating with an awe-inspiring 3.93 GPA. Addressing his peers during the school’s commencement ceremony, he saluted their collective effort for battling against adversity and reaching the zenith of success, especially during a global pandemic.

He said, “Above all the trials, tests, and hardships, what led us here is that we all set a goal to reach.” He urged his peers to take pride in their journey thus far, retain faith in their future, and revel in the journey itself.

The valedictorian’s speech served not only as a beacon of inspiration but also as acknowledgment of the community that nurtured him. Jerel Bryant, CEO of Collegiate Academies, believes Hogan’s character played an indispensable role in his success story.

Jarkayla Cobb, Hogan’s caseworker at Covenant House, recalled the reticent young man who first stepped into the shelter, noting the traumatic experiences that often lead individuals to seek refuge in places such as these.

Steadfast in his pursuit, Hogan will soon matriculate at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. He anticipates a future steeped in the world of graphic design, buoyed by tuition assistance. His parting words offer encouragement to those in similar situations, urging them to cling to education as a life raft amidst stormy troubles.

His advice resonates: “Without your education, you will not be able to get through hardships and meet the people that help you along the way.”