Homeless teen graduates in two years, heads to college

While most teens are spending their summers pursuing a driver’s license, hitting the beach and preparing for another year of high school, one Washington, D.C. native is headed down a different road — the one toward college.

Destyni Tyree, 16, graduated high school in just two years, was class president, successfully lobbied for the school’s first prom and was accepted to Potomac State College to study secondary education. All while living in one of D.C.’s largest homeless shelters.

Tyree was not only an exceptionally young graduate, but a young student at the school. Principal Eugenia Young wrote in an email that at Roosevelt STAY High School — an alternative D.C. Public School — 98 percent of students are 18 years of age or older.

“Destyni is a fighter,” Young said. “As a 16-year-old, Destyni was not the typical student walking the halls of Roosevelt STAY.”

The school offers the same curriculum as other DCPS high schools, but additionally provides social-emotional learning support and increased guidance to help students make post-graduation plans, Young said. She mentioned that Destyni was the one who made her graduation goals a reality.

“Destyni was the one to suggest her early graduation,” Young said. “She went through the credit recovery program at DCPS and attended two sessions of nine-week Saturday courses to catch up. As she started doing well in her classes, she began asking for more, and passed every single class.”

Young added that Tyree’s confidence and self assurance are what helped her not only adjust to Roosevelt STAY, but thrive. She recalled the school prom and student government elections as specific moments when Tyree’s confidence really shined through.

“One day, she came into my office to lobby for a school prom because she believed that all students should have that experience,” she said. “I told her to write me a proposal explaining her argument. She not only wrote the proposal, but also ran for student class president and won!”

As for post-high school plans, Young said Tyree will be a resident advisor in her dorm at Potomac State, where she will enjoy a 24-to-1 student faculty ratio and opportunities to get involved with the college’s dozens of clubs and extracurricular opportunities.

Rene Trezise, a spokesperson for Potomac State College, said the feeder school for West Virginia University will be a perfect fit for Tyree. She also added that in regard to Tyree’s exceptionally young age, the school is prepared to help her overcome any academic challenges she may find.

“She’s worked hard and is a tenacious woman and I think we can help her with her academics,” Trezise said. “We offer an academic success center that offers free tutoring, free study help, that kind of thing.”

In terms of paying for college, Tyree is doing what most teens in her situation are not – crowdsourcing.

Her GoFundMe page has raised nearly $21,000 of her $50,000 goal, which will go toward her tuition, helping her reach her goal of being a high school principal or opening her own charter school. The money comes from 332 donors in just 27 days and has over 1,000 shares via social media, according to the page.

“I created this page so that I make sure that I continue my success,” Tyree wrote on the page. “I can’t wait to make you all proud of me.”

And as her first name implies and her work ethic proves, Destyni Tyree’s success is inevitable.

Samantha J. Gross is a Boston-based journalist and student and a metro correspondent for The Boston Globe.

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