JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A First Coast High student has lived an inspirational story of overcoming obstacles to be the very best -- and only a few of his fellow students and none of his teachers know about it.
Griffin Furlong lost his mother to leukemia at the age of 6, and soon after that, he lived with his father and older brother in a homeless shelter for two years in Louisville, Kentucky.
"At some point I wanted to quit. It was horrible. A kid should not have to go through that," said Furlong.
His family moved to Jacksonville when he was in 6th grade. They lived in a rental house but it was always a financial struggle, often having little to eat and constantly having to depend on family members for help.
A month ago, with finals and AP tests still ahead, he found himself homeless again. His girlfriend's mother put him up for 3 weeks, then he moved in with an aunt and uncle. Through all this he ended up with a 4.65 GPA and will graduate as valedictorian on June 4 at the Jacksonville Memorial Arena.
So, how did he do it?
"Positive mindset. I try to accomplish everything I need to do. I know that I have everything to lose. So I just push myself. School is all I have, family is all I have. I am doing it all for me and what I have been through. I am doing it for my mom," Furlong said.
Furlong says he always wrote in his baseball cap every season: NEVER GIVE UP.
Furlong just turned 18 May 5, just got a state ID Wednesday, and will soon get his drivers license. He loves calculus and plans on studying civil engineering at Florida State where his brother will graduate this summer.
"I wrote him a letter of recommendation, and said he was the hardest working, most motivated student I have ever had," said his calculus teacher Jennifer Stover.
"He never missed a day of school, was always at baseball practice and managed to get his homework done every night and always do well," said cousin Mendy Nancarrow.
Furlong has received some money to help with expenses at Florida State, and a housing discount, but it is nowhere near enough to meet his expenses. He has applied for academic scholarships, but so far hasn't gotten any good news.
"It is pretty frustrating" said Furlong. "I thought being valedictorian, you should deserve a full scholarship, a full tuition scholarship, all I have been able to land is grants. That is need based so that is pretty tough."
You could hear the frustration in his voice.
His counselor at First Coast High is confident he will get academic scholarships, saying that he probably won't hear the results of those applications until next month.
Meanwhile, Furlong will share his family's journey to this point during his valedictorian address at the arena next month, and except for of his close friends, this will be the first time they've heard about . His story should be an inspiration for many.
A GoFundMe account has been set up in Furlong's name. You can donate HERE