Homeless Teen in New Orleans Named High School Valedictorian


A New Orleans, Louisiana, teenager has defied the odds by becoming the valedictorian of his high school while residing in a homeless shelter.

He began high school with remote classes during the 2020 coronavirus lockdowns before transitioning to in-person learning—all while staying at Covenant House, a youth homeless shelter.

Despite his challenging circumstances, the young man graduated with an impressive 3.93 GPA and became one of the two valedictorians for Cohen’s class of 2024.

In his May 24 graduation speech, he expressed deep gratitude to the community for their support.

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

Among Hogan’s strongest supporters have been Jana DeCoster, Cohen’s director of student activities, and Jarkayla Cobb, his case worker at Covenant House.

“As time went on, I started to build up relationships, had to meet some wonderful people, got to know a lot of people, as well as forming relationships and trust with them,” the new graduate said.

DeCoster emphasized how “special” Hogan is for overcoming such adversity with a gracious attitude.

“All of our students experience different levels of trauma, different experiences, and I think Elijah recognizes that, yes, he had adults in his corner, but all of our students who made it to graduation also had adults in their corner,” DeCoster told GMA. “And it is rare that they get thanked at graduation on such a large stage… the fact that he is so gracious to think of, again, not just himself, he’s thinking of all of his classmates, that’s just really special.”

“Being in a homeless shelter is traumatic. Whatever you went through to get you here is traumatic,” Cobb added.

Reflecting on their first meeting, Cobb mentioned Hogan was initially “very shy.”

“He had very few words at first, so it’s just awesome to see how much he’s developed and become so well-spoken over the last seven or eight months that I’ve been a part of his life and just been able to push and encourage him to go after everything that the world has to offer,” she explained.

The 19-year-old now has his sights set on Xavier University of Louisiana, where he plans to major in graphic design this fall.

Hogan shared some advice for fellow students: “There is a time and place where you can have fun, but try to keep yourself organized on some of your education as well, because without your education, you will not be able to get through the hardships and meet the people that helped you along the way,” he said.

Olivia Rondeau
Olivia Rondeau
Digital Reporter. Previously, Olivia was a contributor at the Daily Caller, a staff writer at Foundation for Economic Education, and a Pennsylvania Campus Correspondent at Campus Reform. Prior to that, she worked in social media, research, and public relations at Arsenal Media Group. Olivia is a political science major at the East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.

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