Valedictorian at New Orleans high school graduated while living in homeless shelter

Elijah Hogan

NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana student was named valedictorian of his high school while living at a homeless shelter in New Orleans for the last 18 months.

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Elijah Hogan graduated on May 24 from Walter L. Cohen High School with a 3.93 grade-point average, WDSU-TV reported. The 19-year-old achieved that final grade while living at the Covenant House, a homeless shelter in New Orleans for youths between 16 and 22, according to the television station.

“I thought they were mistaking me for someone else, but when I looked at it and I was shown evidence that it was me, I was in awe, like, I was jaw dropped,” Hogan told CNN.

Hogan was one of two valedictorians in the Class of 2024 at Cohen, a charter high school in New Orleans’ Uptown neighborhood, according to “Good Morning America.”

Hogan delivered a valedictorian address during his commencement, calling his speech a “thank-you note” to the community.

His mother died when he was 8, and Hogan had been living with his grandmother since he was 11, according to WDSU. He became homeless after the lease on her home expired and the homeowner decided to sell the property, CNN reported. They were given 30 days to vacate the house, Hogan said.

“From there, I made the executive decision to live on my own to lighten my grandmother’s burden,” Hogan told the cable news outlet.

His grandmother told him about the Covenant House and he moved in.

“It’s been tough and rough, had a few trips and falls down, (but) I’m all right,” Hogan told “Good Morning America” of his final year in high school.

Hogan will continue his education in the fall at Xavier University in New Orleans, where he has a full ride for tuition expenses, WDSU reported. He plans to major in graphic design.

“Elijah’s accomplishments are worth celebrating. We know that they are a product of his character and the choices he made day after day to pursue his dreams,” Jerel Bryant, chief executive officer of Collegiate Academies, which operates Hogan’s former high school, said in a statement to CNN. “His success is also a testament to how capable and excellent our Black youth are, in New Orleans and across this country.”

He told “Good Morning America” that he has many people to thank, including the Covenant House, where four other students also lived while finishing their high school careers.

“I have people that were there to help me get through it,” Hogan said, according to the news outlet. “And without them I wouldn’t have been where I’m at now as a valedictorian.”

While Hogan’s tuition will be paid, there is still the question of where he will stay. He started a GoFundMe page to help raise cash to pay for his housing costs. As of Sunday evening, more than $26,600 had been pledged.

Jarkayla Cobb, Hogan’s case worker, said organizers at Covenant House knew that he was special, WDSU reported.

“I can see him really just enjoying this moment,” Cobb told the television station. “It was all I could ask for. Such a great moment.”

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