Despite a life of adversity, poverty, and even homelessness, 18-year-old Chelesa Fearce is blazing a trail of academic success. Growing up in Clayton County, Georgia, Chelesa, along with her mother and three siblings, frequently moved from shelter to shelter, even living in her family’s car in times of need.

Regardless of the obstacles in the way, Chelesa stayed focused on her goals: scoring high marks in high school and attending a good college.

Thursday Chelesa graduated with a 4.529 GPA from Charles Drew High School in Clayton County, making her class valedictorian. Thanks to taking college courses for the past two years, Chelesa will enter Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia later this year as a junior.

During Chelesa’s high school years, her mother, Reenita Shepard, was laid off from her job more than once, resulting in the family losing their home. But Chelesa stayed focused on her studies even when bouncing from shelter to shelter, or on those most difficult nights spent in the car.

“At night I just had to open my book in the dark and use my cellphone light, just do what I had to do,” she said.

Even with a heavy workload and irregular living conditions, Chelesa managed to make time for extra-curricular activities. She was a member of her school’s swim team and played the baritone for the Marching Band. Her favorite subjects in high school were chemistry and literature. In her free time, she enjoys reading, swimming, watching action movies and hanging with friends, just like any teenager.

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