Rashema Melson: From Homeless to Valedictorian

Photo Courtesy of:  Marvin Joseph, The Washington Post

Photo Courtesy of:
Marvin Joseph, The Washington Post

Personally, I found this story very intriguing because it shows that no matter what your background entails, if you commit yourself to a goal, it can be accomplished.

Rashema Melson, who has been living with her mother and two brothers in a room inside of the D.C. General homeless shelter for the past two years, will graduate from Anacostia High School as the valedictorian.

With a 4.0 grade point average, she feels that Anacostia High really pushed her even further and further. Rashema says that her graduation speech is going to be dedicated to all of those that helped when there wasn’t any clothing or food available, including teachers, faculty & staff at her school.

“You have options and you decide which one you want to take, and I took education because it takes you for the long run,” said 18-year-old Rashema Melson. “It’s not just a temporary thing or won’t just last for five years. Education will take me far.”

Rashema says that she is going to be the “first person to graduate and get out of college and get a real job.” She also states that she is very proud of the young woman she has become, one who didn’t end up as a pregnant teen or on drugs.

“Her story and her resilience, just her character and personality traits will impact the lives of a lot of people because she’s always optimistic,” said Anacostia Principal Ivan Roberts.

Despite the many challenges Rashema had to overcome, including studying in her shelter and putting headphones on to try and distract herself, she looks forward to a bright future as she goes to college in the fall on a full scholarship.

This story is truly astonishing to me, because of how Rashema remained focused on her future. Although I can’t relate to living in a homeless shelter, I understand how strong of an individual it takes to cultivate the mindset that your temporary situation isn’t permanent. I completely understand how it feels to work hard for something even though you can’t see the end results yet.

Rashema’s story also showed me that  we indeed can take advantage of the resources and things we already have, and that hard work pays off in the end. I was particularly touched by how teachers and others went out of their way to help her.  After all, young people’s dreams need to be supported.  Rashema’s story illustrates that when a village pitches in to raise a child, we all rise, as Maya Angelou would say.

I wish Rashema all of the best in her future endeavors. As a WHUR summer intern, I am very excited to celebrate her life and accomplishments thus far!

Rashema Melson will not only walk across the stage of Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium with the Anacostia High School Class of 2014 on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, but deliver the valedictorian speech as well.

Own your story and continue to inspire Rashema. We here at WHUR salute you!



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