CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. -- According to the organization Education Leads Home, only half of homeless high schoolers in Oregon actually graduate. Illinois Valley High School senior Cullen Beery beat those odds when he walked across the stage during Tuesday’s graduation ceremony. About five years ago, Cullen Beery moved with his grandma from Minnesota to Cave Junction. He’s been living with a friend’s family that graciously took him in for the last three years.
"They just kind of like adopted me. They've helped me out a lot,” Beery said.
He told NewsWatch 12 he knew but also didn’t know that he’d be able to call himself a high school graduate.
“I just wanted to drop out,” added Beery. “I was just done with high school, I didn't want to stay. It was just not for me."
"I can remember as a freshman and sophomore I’d invite him to my office. I’d ask him to sit down and take a break,” said Illinois Valley High School Principal Tanner Smith. “He didn't want to be in school, didn't understand the point of it, didn't think he'd ever finish. Then he wondered what he'd do after high school and why that mattered.”
Beery said Principal Smith told him he’d be able to get jobs a lot easier with a high school diploma than without so he decided to push through.
Beery’s love for track gave him even more motivation. This year he made it all the way to the state championship meet. Now running is giving him an opportunity to earn more than a high school diploma. This fall he’ll be running track for the Colleges of the Siskiyous and working toward a degree in Art. Principal Smith and the IVHS track coach took him to see the campus.
“Having everybody there is just pretty awesome because they all support me and expect me good things from me,” Beery said.
His friend’s family and Principal Smith said he’s making it all on his own, just with an extra push.