Homeless Teen Recounts Struggles in Moving Valedictorian Speech (VIDEO)

Chelesa Fearce earned the highest GPA in her grade despite being homeless for much of her life.

Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

By the light of her mother's cellphone, Chelesa Fearce would study late into the night at a local homeless shelter.

During those difficult times, Fearce told MSNBC that she'd "try to block everything out" and focus on doing well on her exam the next day.

“I just told myself to keep working, because the future will not be like this anymore,” the 18-year-old told WSBTV.

For the last six years, the Georgia teen has been homeless. This is something she chose not to share with her classmates until it was time for her to deliver her high school commencement speech this May. Despite her struggles, Fearce earned a 4.529 GPA, became class valedictorian, and will attend Spelman College in Atlanta next year. Her hope is to become an oncologist one day.

She said during her graduation speech that being homeless has made her stronger.

In the U.S., way too many kids don't know where they will be sleeping on any given night. Approximately 1.6 million youth suffer from homelessness each year.

Not having a home or a warm meal leaves kids at a serious disadvantage in terms of their education. And sadly, families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

Fearce has shown that it's not impossible to excel in school when you are homeless, but the challenges are far greater than most of us realize.

Kids suffering from homelessness, according to the Institute for Children and Poverty, are nine times more likely to repeat a grade, four times more likely to drop out, and three times more likely to be placed in special education programs.

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