Two years ago, Fred Dukes’ mother moved back to South Carolina for employment, leaving her son in Georgia to finish high school. The teen sold candy in the hallways of Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, but housing became a major issue.
"Me and my friend Malcolm kind of compromised to where I could lay my head on his back porch if I needed to," Fred told HLN affiliate WGCL.
But things took a turn for the worse last Christmas. Dukes had to stay at a homeless shelter and was nearly robbed of all his possessions.
"I got into an altercation with a couple other people that were staying here and they wanted to take my stuff, my belongings," Fred told the station.
One night, after he’d missed the last commuter train, he walked 10 miles -- from midnight to about 3:30 a.m. -- so that he could be at school the next morning. It would have been easy for a kid to give in and give up. Fred never did.
"I am very proud I stuck with it and didn't give up," he said.
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His science teacher Leyanna Lloyd said she doesn’t know how he did it. “It's a lot. It's a lot for an adult, and then to see a child do this? Yes it's a lot,” she said, according to WGCL. "He would just tell me stuff and I would sit there with a straight face and then I would end up crying after he left because he has been through a lot, but he never said he was giving up, ever."
Fred graduated Wednesday with a 3.0 grade point average."Oh my God! I finally made it. My message to people is do not let your situation make you who you are. Like I said before, it is the decisions that you make that make you the person you are," Dukes said.
He plans to attend Coker College in South Carolina and major in business.