Martin Folsom had a rough start in life. Living on and off the streets for much of his youth, he experienced years of homelessness. Yet, that didn’t stop him from accomplishing what most people would never have been able to, were they ever in his situation. Martin was named valedictorian at his high school.

This summer, Folsom will graduate from A. Philip Randolph Career Academy in Jacksonville, Florida with a 4.06 grade point average, putting him at the top of his class!

He experienced homelessness multiple times–but never gave up

“It’s been a rocky road,” Folsom says in a video with Good Morning America. “Been a lot of hardships but seeing myself here right now, about to graduate and go to college, it feels good knowing all the stuff I’ve done was worth it.”

Martin and his mother, Melva, were homeless twice during his high school years. His mother was running away from an abusive relationship. As a result, they had to move a lot. Over the span of two years, they resided in a number of homeless shelters across in 5 different states. Melva did her best to provide a stable home for her son.

But throughout these tumultuous years, Martin never lost sight of his goals. He never missed school and is the highest-ranking student in the class of 2020. In fact, he “held on to his title of Valedictorian all throughout high school even when he and his mother found themselves homeless,” as reported by WJXT.

I never thought to myself like ‘I can’t do this anymore’ or ‘I’m done with this.’ It’s always been well, ‘It’s happened again and I just gotta keep myself up and keep moving forward.’

Michael Fodsom to WJXT

Melva also never lost sight of or faith in her son’s abilities. “I just kept pushing him to do better, and not necessarily be number 1 but to do better,” Melva said.

Michael’s message to other young people

Now, Folsom is looking toward the future. He’s experiencing a lot of life in and out of the classroom on the way there. He is president of the Florida Public Safety Association and president of SkillsUSA (a career and technical student organization.

He’s also a member of the Beyond School Walls program with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and has served as class president for the last four years.

“He’s such a special guy, and he’s a great student,” principal Cathy Barnes told GMA. “He has a big heart for his fellow students, their future and making sure they’re an amazing generation.”

In the Fall, he will attend Valdosta State University in Georgia, and recently landed a mentorship with an actual FBI agent. “He’s going to make this happen,” Barnes added.

Martin’s advice to rising students is to “take advantage of every opportunity. You never know where it’s going to lead you to, or what you can end up getting out of it,” he said.

“Dream big and think about something that you really want. And think about how good you’re gonna feel once you accomplish that.”

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