High school presents enough challenges to teenagers grappling with their own identity and balancing their schoolwork. Everyone’s road to graduation has bumps along the way to some extent.
But Thomas Schwab faced circumstances well beyond what a normal teen can expect to experience. Throughout his junior and senior year, Schwab didn’t know where he was going to sleep at night.
Schwab was homeless for his last two years of high school.
After the Murray High School student’s family was evicted from their Utah home, each member went their separate ways. His mother left town for a new job, while his sisters went to live with their father.
For the next few years, the teen bounced around friends houses, crashing on sofas or sleeping on the street.
“We weren’t able to find another house to live in,” Schwab said to KSL. “I floated around from people’s houses, or I stayed outside.”
Despite his living situation, the teen still managed to excel in the classroom. Understandably, he found it difficult to focus at times but refused to anything get in the way of his schoolwork.
“School has always been very important to me,” he said.
Schwab didn’t allow his homelessness to become an excuse for his grades to drop.
The resilient teen is forthcoming about the numerous challenges he faced through his final two years of high school. Uncertainty plagued his life, which he used to further fuel his academic fervor.
“If I’m worried about whether I’m going to sleep tonight in a bush, or if I’m going to be able to get a ride over to school, or walks six miles, it’s very hard to focus on what you need to,” he said.
“Will I be able to stay warm tonight? Or, will it rain? How will I stay dry? What if somebody comes and tries to stake my stuff?”
He was fortunate to fall in with the Salt Lake County Milestone Transitional Living Program, which helped find him housing and stable employment. The program helped with shelter, a bike, and a laptop.
“Once I had this help, it made it a lot easier,” he said. “Whenever I see a challenge or a task, I’m not going to just give up on it. I’m a very determined and reliable person.”
Schwab graduated at the top of his class with a 4.0 GPA and has a bright future.
Ready to enter his post-high school life and leave the troubles that plagued him in the past, Schawb has enlisted in the Navy. He intends to complete their Nuclear Engineering program– the toughest program they offer.
“I believe my future is pretty secure at the moment,” Schwab said. “I’ve got the dedication and the wherewithal to do so. So I’m pretty set in stone about it.”
His teachers agree. Schwab said his film-making teacher Ryan Moffett was a source of inspiration for him, and Moffett appears to feel the same way.
“He’s overcome all odds, I’d say,” his teacher, Ryan Moffett said. “He has risen above everything.”