Homeless Tennessee teen graduates as high school valedictorian, earns $3M in scholarships
A Tennessee teenager received more than $3 million in college scholarships and graduated as his high school's valedictorian all while being homeless.
On Sunday, Tupac Moseley, 17, of Memphis, Tennessee, graduated from Raleigh Egypt High School with a 4.3 GPA, having been accepted to 44 colleges.
“Never let your current situation, whatever circumstances you’re going through, be a mountain that you can’t climb,” he said during his graduation speech.
In an interview with NBC News, Moseley said that his family was thrust into a difficult financial situation following his father's death in April 2017. They fell behind on bills and their home was foreclosed on in February, leaving them suddenly without a place to live.
He said that becoming homeless changed everything, and made focusing on school, college essays and scholarship applications that much more difficult.
“It affected my ability to write,” Moseley said. “I procrastinated a lot.”
He attributes his ability to finish all of his school work and applications to his positive, forward-thinking mindset and to the strong support system he had behind him.
“The family I’ve bonded with at school has been my main motivator,” Moseley said.
After hearing about his dire living situation, a local organization, For The Kingdom, stepped in and provided a cabin for Moseley to live in with his family. With a place to live, he was able to return his full focus to his studies.
Moseley said he was unaware he had received more than $3 million in college scholarships until his graduation ceremony Sunday.
“[I was] beyond astonished and shocked to hear that number,” he added.
However, others were less shocked to witness the hardworking teen's incredible accomplishments.
Shari Meeks has gotten to know Moseley very well over the two years she's served as the Raleigh Egypt High School’s principal.
“He is brilliant and you wouldn’t even know he was going through everything he was going through,” Meeks said. “He is so resilient and handles everything with such poise and grace.”
In a statement to NBC News, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray echoed the principal's sentiment.
“We are proud of the outstanding achievements and determination of our graduating Class of 2019. It takes a village. Against much adversity, students like Tupac Moseley triumph with the devout support of caring teachers, administrators and parents,” the statement read.
During his valedictorian address to the graduating class Sunday, Moseley thanked his principal and teachers for believing in him.
After receiving offers from 44 colleges and universities, Moseley decided to attend Tennessee State University, a historically black college or HBCU, where he will major in electrical engineering.
“I knew I’d have the kind of support there that I’d had during my high school career,” Moseley said.
In a statement to NBC News, Tennessee State University acknowledged Moseley’s talent and dedication and noted that they are excited to welcome him on campus.
“Tupac Moseley is an extraordinary young man and we are extremely thrilled that he will attend Tennessee State University. Mr. Moseley has an incredible story of accomplishment at such a young age, being homeless and still able to graduate valedictorian of his class. We are excited to be a part of his educational journey, but most importantly his life's journey as he continues to soar,” the statement read.
However, his college experience is beginning much earlier than he originally expected.
Wednesday afternoon, the president of Tennessee State University, Dr. Glenda Glover, will be picking up Moseley and bringing him to the university’s Nashville campus where he will move into his new dorm.
“I will personally travel to Memphis later today and bring him back to Nashville, to our campus, so he can get acclimated to college life as an academically talented student. We are prepared to provide summer housing and employment for him as well,” Glover said in a statement.
Moseley said he is looking forward to starting college, meeting new people and making strides toward his dream career as an engineer. He wants others to know that they too can accomplish their goals, no matter the circumstances.
“Your location is not your limitation. Anything that is a blockade is not something you can’t overcome,” Moseley said.