Things That Matter

A Florida Teen Has Overcome Immense Obstacles, Including Homelessness, To Become His School’s Valedictorian

Right now we are in the midst of so much change. There is so much going on in the world – from a global pandemic that has left millions of us in social isolation to a brand new social justice movement in the wake of murder of unarmed Black men.

We’re being bombarded with so much serious news, it’s hard to remember that there are still people out there leading powerful, incredible lives and making a difference.

One Florida teen has overcome all the odds, including years of homeless, to graduate from his high school as valedictorian and we need to celebrate and recognize this huge accomplishment.

Martin Folsom graduated at the top of his class after struggling through years of homelessness.

Since he was a child, Martin Folsom and his mother Melva have been in and out of homelessness, according to Jacksonville television station WJXT.

Despite all the challenges he faced through the years, Folsom managed to keep his focus on his studies — and his efforts paid off when he was named his class’ valedictorian and graduated from Philip Randolph Career Academy in Jacksonville, FL.

“It kind of gave me a jolt in my chest a little bit, so it was a good feeling,” Folsom said in a video interview shared by KTRK. “It means a lot and it gives me a sense of all I’ve done and all I have accomplished was worth it.”

After college – Martin plans to attend Valdosta State University – he hopes to one day work for the FBI.

Martin credits his mom’s dedication and compassion for helping him succeed.

During his time in high school, Martin’s mom recalled desperately searching for a place to live with her son.

“Martin and I were in downtown McDonald’s and literally had nowhere to go,” she shared with WJXT. “I was on the phone calling people, calling organizations, and by the grace of God, we got into a shelter that day.”

Even with an uncertain living situation, Martin didn’t let that affect his studies.

“I never thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ or ‘I’m done with this,'” explained the teen, who served as class president from freshman year through senior year. “It’s always been, ‘Well, it happened again and I’ve gotta keep myself up and keep moving forward.'”

He was set to walk across the stage last week for graduation, but that was canceled due to the pandemic.

Still, he isn’t letting that damper his spirits — especially since Martin had to overcome hurdle after hurdle to earn the high honor. He and his mom have struggled with homelessness since he was a kid, and throughout his four years of high school. They became homeless while fleeing Melva’s ex-husband, who has since been sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder.

Within two years, the mother and son reportedly lived in different shelters across five states before setting in Jacksonville.

“It’s been a rocky road, been a lot of hardships, but seeing myself here right now, about to graduate and go to college, it feels good knowing that all the stuff I’ve done, it was worth it,” Martin said.

He served as the class president for his grade for four years straight, from 9th grade to 12th grade. Now he will go on to college in the fall — and says that will be a big day for his family.

“As far as I know I’m the first person in my family to actually get a college degree,” he said.

MLS Players Test Positive As Teams Travel To Florida To Start Tournament

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MLS Players Test Positive As Teams Travel To Florida To Start Tournament

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The numbers are startling. The number of COVID-19 infections in the U.S. is skyrocketing and breaking records for the number of infections almost daily. One of the hardest-hit states in Florida and the MLS is determined to bring their season back using Florida as their meeting ground.

MLS athletes and staff members are testing positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Florida.

Major League Soccer is one of the first sports to attempt to restart its season. Fans were excited about the decision to restart the sport and MLS officials set their sights on the Walt Disney World Resort. Teams were flown down to Orlando to create a bubble to restart the sport as safely as possible.

Florida is experiencing one of the most severe spikes in cases in the country and the MLS is not immune to the spread.

Florida recently reported more than 10,000 cases July 1, a record for the state, and within 1,000 infections from the nation’s record set in New York. Orange County, which is home to Orlando and Walt Disney World Resort, is facing one of the most devastating outbreaks in the state.

There is a lot of chatter about whether or not is possible for this bubble idea to work.

“So far, most guys have been sticking to their rooms, playing video games, FIFA and 2K. We’ve had the opportunity share meals together, which was nice because I haven’t eaten in a group in a long time,” San Jose defender Tommy Thompson told Tampa Bay Times. “It felt great to be back on the field. When we all got on that bus together and started to train with contact, it felt really good.”

Fans are questioning if this idea is going to work.

Some players have told the press that they do feel safe in the bubble as the teams practice and prepare for the MLS is Back Tournament.

“Everyone is wearing masks, some guys are wearing gloves, and I feel safe 100 percent,” Dallas midfielder Tanner Tessmann told Tampa Bay Times. “They separated us on the buses and on the plane. We are staying one to a room in the hotel. So, I feel really safe. They have good procedures in place, so everything should go smoothly.”

The MLS is Back Tournament is set to begin July 8, considering everything goes according to plan. The rest of the teams are expected to arrive this week with the first game between Inter Miami and Orlando City.

READ: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Is Calling For A Repeal Of Its Kneeling Policy During The National Anthem

#TheWorldReopenedAnd Is Highlighting All The Ways We Are Failing In Our Response To COVID-19

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#TheWorldReopenedAnd Is Highlighting All The Ways We Are Failing In Our Response To COVID-19

Kevin Dietsch-Pool / Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading across the U.S. with several states seeing significant spikes. Globally, some regions and countries have had to reinstitute lockdowns and travel bans to tamp down outbreaks. After almost four months of isolating and staying home, people are being allowed back out with restrictions and it isn’t going super great.

Twitter users let their feelings be known about the recent reopings using #TheWorldReopenedAnd.

There is a big debate raging in the U.S. about the use of facial masks. At some point, the facial mask was politicized leading to people on the right claiming that the mask violates their rights. Meanwhile, health experts around the world have stated that wearing facial masks is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19.

There are a lot of people on social media who just don’t trust the general public right now.

With some states and cities reopening, the cases have started to once again spike in the U.S. California, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and Florida has seen spikes great enough to start rolling back some of the reopenings that have happened in their states. The most common places reclosed are bars and nightclubs. Bars and nightclubs are considered as dangerous for COVID-19 spread as gyms.

The numbers are all trending poorly for a majority of states.

According to The New York Times, new coronavirus cases are increasing in 35 states. Some of the worst spikes are coming from states that have rushed reopenings ahead of their previous plans. The U.S. recorded more than 45,000 new cases on June 26 and more than 39,000 on June 30.

As the country reevaluates its reopening, without a national plan in place, Americans favor science leading the charge.

According to a poll by The New York Times, a majority of voters trust medical experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over President Donald Trump when it comes to the coronavirus. Eighty-four percent of all voters surveyed by The New York Times said they trust medical experts when it comes to information on COVID-19. Alternately, 26 percent of voters trust President Trump for information. The numbers show an overlap in those who trust both medical experts and President Trump. Support for President ran on part lines as 66 percent of Republican voters trusted President Trump while 4 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Independents trust President Trump.

On a different note, some people are convinced that the end of the quarantine released an eager populations of Karens loose.

As the lockdowns have eased, there have been more social media videos of people acting out. How are you feeling about the current reopenings?

READ: Court Orders ICE To Release Children In Their Custody As COVID-19 Tears Through Detention Centers