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Washington Teenager Excels to the Top of Her Class Despite Once Being Homeless

A graduate who once lived in a ruined shelter was named the 2018 valedictorian of her class at H.D. Woodson High School.

Tallya Rhodes, her sister and mother Sebrena Rhodes were homeless at one point and living in a rat-infested shelter ran out of Days Inn motel.

“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.

Tallya and her family originally lived in a trailer park in Salisbury, North Carolina. Her mother Serena was a victim of domestic abuse and was eager to escape 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,” the graduate told WJLA.

Sebrena packed up her children and never returned to the home. The family drove to Washington, D.C. to be with family, but things didn’t go as planned. The shelter they lived at only had one bathroom and was cramped with five other individuals.

“Sometimes I slept on the floor so I could stretch out more,” the teen added.

However, Tallya continued to persevere through the hard times during her sophomore year and buried herself in academics. Her friends never quite understood why she worked so hard, but there were teachers who knew her situation. They would often lend Tallya support with a hot meal, clothes or more.

“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.

Tallya proved to herself and others around her that if she could blossom in school in spite of not having a place to call home, then she could do anything.

“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,” the 2018 graduate said.

Sebrena said her daughter gave her 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 was extremely happy to graduate as the valedictorian of her class. She will be attending Concord University in West Virginia on a full ride scholarship. She wanted to tell others to never give up.

“Really, no matter what always just keep going, keep going and do whatever you can to prevail. I’m living proof that it works,” said the graduate.

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