A homeless Utah teen had the odds against him. But without so much as the stability of a place to sleep at night, 18-year-old Thomas Schwab didn't just make it through those hard, awkward high school years, he graduated at the top of his class and maintained a hopeful outlook that should inspire us all.
Schwab's family fell on hard times and the teen ended up homeless and alone for most of 11th and 12th grade. "We weren’t able to find another house to live in," he recalled. "I floated around from people’s houses, or I stayed outside."
According to KSL-TV, Schwab's mother moved away for a job and his siblings moved to stay with their father.
"If I’m worried about whether I’m going to sleep tonight in a bush, or if I’m going to be able to get a ride over to school, or walk six miles, it’s very hard to focus on what you need to," said the teen. "Will I be able to stay warm tonight? Or, will it rain? How will I stay dry? What if somebody comes and tries to stake my stuff?"
But that never stopped Schwab from challenging himself in the classroom and ending up as a top Murray High School graduate, and, not to mention, maintaining an infectious positive attitude.
"I love learning," he said, adding, "I love education, and I love improving myself. I feel education is one of the best ways to become a better person. ... School has always been very important to me."
"When it comes to opportunities," he says, "I always take advantage of them."
Schwab is graduating with a 4.0 GPA and says he's never earned a score lower than an A. He was also voted "Most Intellectual" by his classmates.
The new graduate says he found some stability with assistance from the Salt Lake County Milestone Transitional Living Program. "The program aims to end the cycle of homelessness and dependency by helping young adults, ages 18-21, become self-sufficient through access to safe housing, stable employment and connections to ongoing support and resources," reports KSL-TV.
"Once I had this help, it made it a lot easier," said Schwab.
The teachers at Murray High sing the young man's praises, too. "You are awesome, Thomas. I’ve loved having you in class," said Ryan Moffett, a video production and ceramics teacher.
"He’s overcome all odds, I’d say," Moffett said of the student. "He has risen above everything."
For now, Schwab says his "future is pretty secure." The young man is gearing up for a nuclear engineering program with the Navy, leaving for boot camp on June 18.
"I’m going to join the Navy, and I will be going through the nuclear engineering program, which is the hardest program in the Navy," he told KSL-TV. "I’ve got the dedication and the wherewithal to do so. So I’m pretty set in stone about it."