New Orleans valedictorian graduates top of his class while homeless

New Orleans valedictorian Elijah Hogan gives speech. (Credit: Kewe Ukpolo)

A high school senior recently graduated at the top of his class, despite living in a homeless shelter for youth for more than a year.

Elijah Hogan graduated as one of two valedictorians at Walter L. Cohen Charter High School in New Orleans

"I am a youth experiencing homelessness in the city of New Orleans," Hogan wrote on a GoFundMe account he created earlier this month asking for college donations. "Despite these unfortunate circumstances, I've chosen to push forward and by the grace of God achieved becoming my school's Valedictorian for the year of 2024. " 

According to The Associated Press, the 19-year-old was only 8 when his mother died. He had been living with his grandmother, but for the last year and a half, he has been a resident at the Covenant House, which provides a place to stay for youth who are homeless.


(Credit: Kewe Ukpolo)

Jarkayla Cobb, Hogan’s case worker at Covenant House, noted how shy Hogan was when he first arrived at the shelter.

"Being in a homeless shelter is traumatic. Whatever you went through to get you here is traumatic," Cobb said.

Despite the housing insecurity, Hogan pushed through to finish high school with a 3.93 GPA. In a speech at the school's graduation ceremony, Hogan applauded his classmates for pushing themselves "to reach the pinnacle of success."

"Above all the trials, tests and hardships, what led us here is that we all set a goal to reach," Hogan said. "Take pride in how far you have come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy your journey."

He also called the speech a "thank-you note" to the community who helped him and encouraged any students who are struggling through hardship to remain focused on their education.

"Because without your education, you will not be able to get through the hardships and meet the people that helped you along the way," Hogan said.

Hogan plans to attend Xavier University of Louisiana, where he said he will be receiving some tuition assistance while pursuing a degree in graphic design.

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"I am very grateful for tuition assistance, but I am still in need of any help one may be able to offer to cover housing and meal plans. Beyond college, any financial help to provide basic needs such as food and clothing will also greatly be appreciated," Hogan wrote on the GoFundMe account.

The fund has currently raised nearly $104,000 of his $15,000 goal. You can donate to Hogan here.

In response to the recent donations, Hogan followed up to the community, writing, "To all those who have donated their money to help me with my college needs thank you all so much for your support from the bottom of my heart. I will not let all of your help go in vain through my college years."

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.