Former Homeless Student Graduates From Georgetown University

She was homeless, friendless and at one point, she tried to harm herself. Now, this 23-year-old holds a diploma from Georgetown University, no less. Learn about her inspiring story.

Rashema Melson who grew up homeless and under rough circumstances became the first her family to graduate college. 

The  23-year-old claimed her diploma during her college graduation at Georgetown University after completing her bachelor’s degree in justice and peace studies. This is an important milestone for Melson who struggled with a difficult past due to lack of a permanent home and resources. 

A ROUGH PAST

“My life has always been rough,” Melson admits to ABC News.  She grew up with her single mother whose children were born from different fathers.  They were homeless, living in a shelter or an abandoned home, often moving from one place to another. And while most people would view homelessness as a mere lack of a permanent place to live, she says it’s much more than that. 

“People really emphasizes a lot on the homelessness because that’s what grabbed their attention but there’s a lot that I don’t share.”

She reveals waking up to the sting of bed bites from sleeping on a cot shared with her siblings. Her showers were often quick and cold because they had no access to hot water. In the absence of plates, she would eat straight out of cans with a spoon. 

“It’s just so much and I think that’s what people don’t understand when you are going through circumstances it’s just not one thing there is A LOT going on.”

Their tough living conditions took a toll on Melson who admitted to suffering from bulimia and inflicting harm on herself. Though it was difficult for her to speak about it, she also confessed she became the victim of sexual assault. 

“It’s just so much and I think that’s what people don’t understand when you are going through circumstances it’s just not one thing there is A LOT going on.”

“Reading books gave me an insight into a world that I have never ever seen in my life. 

THE LIGHT THAT GUIDED HER IN DARKNESS

It was also a struggle for Melson to develop friendships and lasting relationships because she would move schools often. The only thing that kept her going was her love for reading which allowed her to envision a different future for herself. By immersing in books, she imagined a world that was possible for her.

“Reading books gave me an insight into a world that I have never ever seen in my life. People really get rich and buy a house? People really get their dream jobs? It was like a fantasy land to me.”

After attending three different high schools, Melson graduated valedictorian at Anacostia High School. This would be the turning point that would change the course of her future.  She received a full scholarship at Georgetown and now, years later, holds a diploma from the university.

“I knew that education was the only way out. I knew like I need to get my work done.”

WITH THE HELP OF HER FRIENDS

Melson is grateful for her friends she met at the university who stood by her and pushed her to complete her education. She was sidetracked after her freshman year when she decided to drop out of school to marry her longtime boyfriend. When her marriage didn’t work out, it was her friends who motivated her to return to school. 

One of them, Wesley Bowers has a lot of good words to say about Melson. He describes her as a caring person who “is always the first person to give.” He gained an even greater respect for her with the knowledge of her painful past.

“Just know that your blessing is there waiting for you, you just have to go get it.”

HER ADVICE TO OTHERS

With her college diploma secured, the first for her family, Melson sighs in disbelief. 

“It’s an unbelievable feeling, actually,” she told WUSA. “I knew that education was the only way out. I knew like I need to get my work done.”

As for her advice to others who share her past and are still struggling with difficult living conditions, Melson encourages them to stay the course and not give up. 

“Just know that your blessing is there waiting for you, you just have to go get it.”

FROM HOMELESS TO A COLLEGE SHOPPING SPREE

Melson’s story reminds us of a teen from New Jersey who was once homeless yet became the first person in his family to go to college after being accepted by 17 colleges

17-year-old Dylan Chidick grew up without a permanent home but was inspired by his mother who did everything she could to make ends meet for her family. He focused on his studies, determined to be a college graduate. Lo and behold, after submitting his college applications, they all returned with acceptance letters. He intended to study political science and it was just a question of where. 

For Melson and Chidick, hardships became their motivation to give themselves a better life. Their stories are inspiring and we hope that many will be touched and convinced that nothing is impossible with hard work and determination.