Martin Folsom, 18, has been homeless off and on most of his life. On July 23, he will graduate as valedictorian of his class at A. Philip Randolph Career Academy in Jacksonville, Florida. He has a 4.06-grade point average and has served as class president all four years of high school.
He and his mother, Melva, first became homeless when they fled her abusive ex-husband, who has since been sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder. The pair have been in and out of shelters most of Folsom’s life, including twice during his high school years. During one two-year period, they moved around to shelters in five states. But despite his difficult circumstances, he persevered to rise to the top of his class.
“It’s been a rocky road, a lot of hardships,” Folsom said in a video posted by Duval County Public Schools highlighting the accomplishments of the class of 2020. “But seeing myself now about to graduate, about to go to college — it feels good knowing all the stuff I’ve done was worth it.”
Watch him talk about his success in the Vimeo clip below:
In addition to acting as class president, Folsom is president of the Florida Public Safety Association and president of SkillsUSA. He’s also a member of the Beyond School Walls program with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“He’s such a special guy, and he’s a great student,” Cathy Barnes, school principal at A. Philip Randolph Career Academy, told “Good Morning America” of their star pupil. “He has a big heart for his fellow students, their future and making sure they’re an amazing generation.”
Folsom’s mother said she always worked to instill a strong work ethic in her son.
“I just constantly kept pushing him to do better, and not necessarily to be No. 1, but to do better,” she told WJXT.
Folsom plans to study accounting and finance at Valdosta State in University in Valdosta, Georgia. He would like to be an FBI agent after college.
Congratulations to this extraordinary young man and best of luck to him in all his future endeavors!