‘We want better': DC valedictorian lived in tent under bridge

Michael Jeffery found himself living in a tent in Navy Yard after he lost two jobs and his home. He's now a high school graduate headed to college

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A D.C. man who lived in a tent for two years recently graduated as valedictorian of a free high school for adults.

During the pandemic, Michael Jeffery lost his jobs at Waffle House and a clothing company. He also lost his home. He found himself sleeping under a bridge in the Navy Yard neighborhood.

“I didn’t want to be stuck out here,” Jeffery said. “I don’t wish this on anybody, to be stuck out here.”

“We don’t want pity,” he added. “A lot of people in this situation is just like me. We want better; we want more.”

Last year, he signed up for classes at the Goodwill Excel Center, a free high school for adults.

For an entire schoolyear, Jeffery took classes and studied while still living in a tent.

“A lot of people don’t get that second chance, and Goodwill allowed that second chance for me, and I appreciate that,” he said.

Last week, Jeffery graduated as valedictorian. Two weeks ago, he moved out of his tent and into an apartment. He starts at Catholic University in the fall and hopes to eventually attend law school.  

“I’m studying legal studies,” he said. “Who would’ve thought that I would be studying legal studies, right? There was no hope in this tent, but I found it, so you see how far I’ve came and how far I will get.”

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