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'Shine through that darkness': Georgia senior goes from homeless to valedictorian

High school graduate Kennedy Randall shared her personal struggles and how she finished on top during her graduation speech.

MACON, Ga. — It's a common tradition to have the valedictorian speak in front of the class during graduation. 

As Northeast High School students prepare for the big day, their valedictorian will share a touching story of her journey.

Kennedy Randall, the valedictorian, feels prepared to give her speech.

"My speech is about... there is a whole bunch of darkness that we're surrounded by, but it's up to us to shine through that darkness," she said.

Randall decided to make her speech personal by sharing the obstacles she's faced since a young age, like living at her grandmother's house with 11 people.

"None of our bills were ever paid, so even with so many people around me, I didn't have any privacy, and I could barely keep up my hygiene because we didn't have any hot water and we didn't have any lights, so I would have to get used to boiling my bath water," she said.

One family member was in a gang, and she worried that activity would end up at her grandmother's house.

"I was very scared that the people he was messing with would come to my house, and you know, cause violence, or I may end up dying because of my cousin's actions," she said.

After her parents divorced, she and her mother moved to Savannah. They came back to Macon when her brother had a baby, but didn't have a place to live.

"We stayed at the Salvation Army and I was in 10th grade when I was homeless. I wanted to be able to stay afloat in school," she said.

She and her mother now live in more stable housing. Through it all, Randall always kept her head in the books because she says she knew education would give her a better life.

"No matter where you come from or how you grew up, it's not about your environment. It's about how you react to it and your actions despite your circumstances," Randall said.

She's finishing high school with the highest SAT score in her class AND a 4.0 GPA. She's also the recipient of a number of awards, one being the Dr. Curtis Jones Leadership Award, which is given to one outstanding Bibb senior each year.

She will be attending Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania on a full scholarship.


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