From the shelter to the stage: A valedictorian’s story

WASHINGTON — A young woman who’s been living in a local homeless shelter just graduated as valedictorian of her high school class.

“Always be who you truly are on the inside. Never be afraid to go after your dreams, and regardless of the negative forecast that has been predicted upon us, beat the odds and let the sun shine,” Rashema Melson told the rest of Anacostia High School’s Class of 2014.

She’s been living with her mother and two brothers at the homeless shelter at the site of the old D.C. General Hospital.

“Life is not fair. Life is not fair. But despite that harsh reality, you must keep striving for success through the pain, tears, and feeling of lost hope,” she continued in her speech.

After walking across the stage at Howard University to receive her diploma, Rashema was matter-of-fact.

“It’s just one step forward. It’s not over yet. I still have to graduate from college, and then go to med school and finish residency and then I’ll be certified,” she told reporters.

Rashema’s goal is to become a forensic pathologist. She earned a full scholarship to Georgetown University, and begins early classes there next month.

Rashema says she has often felt like giving up, but credits her teachers and coaches at Anacostia High for helping to keep her motivated.

“The only way to make it through the storm is to go through it, so that’s what I did,” she says.

Rashema’s mom, Vanessa Brown, hopes her daughter sets an example for others: “I’m hoping that they learn that no matter what you go through, that you can still be successful.”

As Rashema’s family was encircled by cameras and microphones, sister Desiree Brown said, “She’s a star. She’s better than Beyonce and Jay Z right now.”

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.