CBS 4 reports that 20-year-old Liyjon DeSilva, a man living in Texas, has just graduated from high school and has won a full college scholarship. What makes this case unique, though, is that Liyjon was homeless for most of his high school life and kept going purely based on his herculean level of self-interest.
DeSilva told ABC 13 that his single mother had died when he was just 5-years-old. He had lived with a string of his family members over the next few years, but he was eventually abandoned and left to fend for himself.
But while many people forsaken at that age would have definitely wandered off the straight and narrow, Liyjon points out, he took his destiny into his own hands and worked towards a better future by attending Margaret Long Wisdom High School (known at the time as Robert E. Lee High School).
“What else am I supposed to do? It was either be that or a low life, I could have thrown everything away. I have a chance, why not just keep going?” DeSilva said in reference to his self-motivated but arduous high school journey.
Not only did DeSilva attend high school; he thrived there. The CBS news piece points out that high school is already a notoriously difficult time for students – even those with kitchens full of food, a roof over their heads, and supportive families with parents who also attended high school to go home to. Liyjon had none of those things, yet he managed to show up every day with a smile and consistently obtain stellar grades in his high school classes.
While most high school students, even the ones who are doing well, see the high school experience as a grind, DeSilva saw it as a learning experience.
“I don’t like to refer to it as bad or that it was terrible, because I learned a lot. I learned a lot of survival skills. Life became a bit easier.”
It’s probably safe to bet Liyjon’s sentiment does not reflect the typical view of what it’s like to attend high school.
That is not to say the four years DeSilva spent in high school were a joy, however. They were tremendously hard on him, which makes it even more incredible he did so well in terms of academics.
“I wanted clothes. I wanted to be able to live like a normal kid, you know. I wanted to eat like a normal kid. I slept at parks. I love sleeping on parking lots because I could see the stars, the sky. There was one where I could see the horizon of the city. I slept at pools. Those were cool,” Liyjon said, revealing that although he was a superstar at high school, his out-of-school life was similar to that of any other homeless person.
After a few years of slogging through high school without a home, says Jonathan Trinh, the principal of Desilva’s now-former high school, one of the school’s counselors discovered him living in a park and realized what he had been going through. She helped him out, giving him a place to live and a support system to fall back on.
“He calls me his mother figure,” said the counselor. “Liyjon has some very special inner resources that make him really driven and strong. There are tons of people out there who want to help and kids out there who need it.”
Now that DeSilva has finally graduated Margaret Long Wisdom High School in the top 5 percent of his class, colleges and universities are picking up on his inspiring story and the incredible amount of drive it displays. In fact, Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota has already offered Liyjon a full scholarship. Despite that fact, Liyjon is planning to keep striving for greatness in college as hard as he has in high school.
“There are too many possibilities to say that it’s over. If you’re looking at me, if you’re able to breathe, if you’re able to talk … there are too many possibilities to just waste. You have a million dollars already. You just need to get to your bank account.”
This man truly has his eyes on the prize.
Although Liyjon’s scholarship covers almost all of his college fees, he still has to pay for some things like books and a laptop. His high school friends have established a page on Tilt, a crowdfunding site, to help pay for those expenses. If you want to help out, check out the page by clicking here.
[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]