MIAMI (CBSMiami) – More than 4,500 students graduated from Florida International University during eight commencement ceremonies over the past three days, including a few with some amazing stories, especially one-time homeless student Tamara Telfort.
Tamara is among 22 Worlds Ahead Graduates, recognized for excelling academically, succeeding despite obstacles, and using their education and experiences to make a difference.
“The goal that I gave myself, I reached it and now that I’ve reached it, it just it’s kind of like a gift to be a Worlds Ahead graduate,” said Tamara.
Growing up, the 23-year-old graduate was always involved in the arts. She loved singing and acting, knew the arts were the path for her.
She came to South Florida from Haiti when she was 11-years-old with her father. Her mother stayed behind.
During her teen years, her relationship with her father became strained. However, it became unbearable when she told her dad she was gay during her senior year of high school.
Tamara moved out and, with no place to go, ended up at Lotus House, a shelter for women.
She worked hard, stayed focused and graduated magna cum laude from North Miami Senior High School.
“Coming to FIU as a homeless student has given me a new perspective,” she recalled.
Mentors such as Superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools Alberto Carvalho and programs like Project Upstart guided her through the college admissions process and connected her with resources and FIU’s Fostering Panther Pride program, which supports foster care and homeless students.
She specifically thanked Superintendent Carvalho.
“He has shown me through his story, that you have the power to make, literally, your own future. With dedication with persistence and just one simple intention to be better is all that counts,” she said.
She thrived at FIU and became involved with the LGBTQ community and on-campus organizations such as Pride Alliance.
Sunday night, she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in communication with a 3.56 GPA.
So what’s next for Tamara?
Her dream is to be a director in New York City.
“I know I want to be a director at the end of the day, but to get to that I have majored in broadcast media. I am going to New York and I’m going to pursue videography or editing to get a sense of behind the scenes and later can switch it up to be a director.”