ATLANTA - The journey of a 19-year-old homeless student whose determination earned him a high school diploma and a college scholarship has compelled a community to lend a helping hand.
Moved by Fred Dukes' story, Atlanta activist Derrick Boazman and men's store D&K Clothing arranged a $1,000 shopping spree to prepare the Washington High School graduate for the next phase in his life.
One of 11 children, only
Dukes and his sister were high school graduates, and he will be the first in his family to attend college.
Boazman told Channel 2's Diana Davis
that Dukes' story moved him to tears.
"It really is the best of what's good about America. It's a great American story about the kid who would not give up," Boazman said.
Dukes, who holds a 3.3 grade point average, decided to tough it out alone when his stepmother moved back to South Carolina for a job.
Dukes told Davis he wanted to stay at his high school, Washington, and earn his diploma.
Dukes' arrangement to stay with friends didn't last. By December of his senior year, he told
Davis, he had to no place to stay.
"It was kind of rough. It was Christmas break. Cold. You are outside. You are outside. You don't have (anywhere) to go. The cold can just numb your spirits and numb your brain," Dukes said.
But Dukes said he couldn't lose sight of his goals, and he reached the first of many in May when he graduated from high chool -- armed with a scholarship to South Carolina's Coker College.
"Just two years ago, I wouldn't think I would be here, but just sticking to those two little
words -- 'hold on,' keep going, don't lose focus -- got me here," the teen said.
Dukes said graduation marks the start of his story.
"A little faith will take you a long way," Dukes said.
Dukes' scholarship falls short of what he will
need, so D&K Clothing has agreed to match every dollar shoppers donate, up to to $5,000, to get Dukes that extra money.