Updated:CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. —
A teen who spent most of her high school career homeless delivered an inspiring commencement speech Thursday night as valedictorian of her graduating class.
Earlier this week, 17-year-old Chelesa Fearce told Channel 2’s Eric Philips about using the light of a cellphone to study in a homeless shelter after lights out. In her speech on Thursday, she told her classmates how that experience made her stronger.
During her speech, Chelesa reminded her fellow Charles Drew High School graduates of their school mascot, the Titan, a mythical figure of superhuman strength. She singled out the titan Antaeus, who became stronger the more he was knocked down.
“I was homeless. My family slept on mats on the floor and we were lucky if we got more than one full meal a day. Getting a shower, food and clean clothes was an everyday struggle,” Chelesa said.
That strength earned Chelesa a 4.466 GPA and a 1900 on her SATs, despite years of moving with her mother and three siblings, sometimes living in her mother’s car.
Chelesa’s older sister, Chelsea Shelton, was there to cheer her on.
“I’m the oldest, but she’s the smartest,” Chelsea said.
Chelsea will graduate on Saturday as salutatorian from George Washington Carver High School in Atlanta.
“I couldn’t do anything without my sister,” Chelsea said.