WATCH: Rashema Melson, Formerly Homeless Student, Graduates from Georgetown University

Rashema Melson

A 23-year-old student went from living on the streets and in shelters to being the first in her family to graduate from college on Saturday.

Despite Rashema Melson’s challenging upbringing, during which she attended three different high schools, she managed to become the valedictorian at Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C. and earned a full scholarship to Georgetown University, according to ABC News.

“My life has always been rough,” Melson, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in justice and peace studies, told the news outlet. “Homeless or not, in the southeast, it’s rough regardless. The circumstances are just rough due to the fact that we don’t have the tools or resources as everyone else.”

She added: “People really emphasize a lot on the homelessness because that’s what grabbed their attention, but there’s a lot that I don’t share.”

Melson remembers the days of not having hot water, eating food out of a can because plates weren’t available and struggling to maintain friendships because of how often she and her family had to pick up and move.

“It was four of us in a little room, a little smaller than a dorm room that I actually live in now,” Melson told WUSA. “We’ve lived in an abandoned home before, which was way worse, so I appreciate the shelter because it was, you know, a place to live for the moment.”

Focusing on education, movies and reading helped Melson focus on — and see — her future, she told ABC.

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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Caitlin Keating