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'I knew that education was the only way out' | Former homeless student graduates from Georgetown University

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 5/16/2019 Bruce Johnson, Madisson Haynes
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WASHINGTON -- A former homeless woman is set to walk across the stage Saturday at Georgetown University's commencement. 

Rashema Melson is from Southeast D.C. She once lived in an abandoned house, but lived with her mom and two brothers at D.C. General Family Shelter for much of high school. 

"It was four of us in a little room, a little smaller than a dorm room that I actually live in now," Melson said. "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."

D.C. General Family Shelter is now closed, but Melson is using her past to help others overcome their obstacles.

"I'm always looking to help other people, because I know what the struggle is like," Melson said. "You don't have to live in a shelter to feel like that you can't achieve something, or that you can't do it. So even living in the Southeast area and going to a high school like Anacostia, you know, you feel like people have like forecasted that we're not going to make it. And I want to bring people up with me."

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Melson ran track, tutored fellow classmates and graduated as valedictorian from Anacostia High School.

She also received a full scholarship to Georgetown University.

"Anacostia prepared me to open up myself to just be willing to just try anything new," Melson said. "Don't be afraid of anything. Go in head first."

Melson majored in justice and peace studies at Georgetown, and can't believe she's set to graduate.

"It's an unbelievable feeling actually," she said.

Melson didn't let the fact that she was homeless sway her from education. 

"You can't be too stuck in your environment, you know, because then you'll actually be stuck there," Melson said. "You have to be looking toward the future."

While living in the shelter, in order to study Melson said she put her headphones in and "got in the zone."

"I knew that education was the only way out," Melson said. "I knew like I need to get my work done."

Melson's mom has her own place now, and one of her brothers is at Syracuse University on a Division One football scholarship. 

"I couldn't be more proud of him," Melson said. "He is my absolute biggest inspiration."

But Melson's education doesn't stop here. Up next? Law school.

"That's the plan," she said.

RELATED: Miriam's Kitchen looks to end chronic homelessness one meal at a time

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