This homeless high schooler just graduated in 2 years with a full-ride scholarship.

One of D.C.’s 4,000 homeless youth just received an amazing opportunity.

Destyni Tyree was 16 and living in a homeless shelter when she was voted prom queen and graduated high school two years early.

All photos via Destyni Tyree, used with permission.

A few years before graduation, Destyni’s family fell on particularly hard times. Her mother lost her job, and not long after, they lost their apartment, too. They ended up at the D.C. General Homeless Center, a city-run shelter that houses about 270 families.


“It was tough,” said Destyni. “We didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Destyni dropped out of two different high schools before getting accepted to Roosevelt STAY, an alternative high school that aims to transform students' lives and change the trajectory of their future.

“If it wasn’t for the people at STAY, and my mom, I don’t think I would have made it through high school,” Destyni said.

Roosevelt STAY is one of eight alternative high schools in the District of Columbia. Throughout the U.S., there are over 10,000 of these schools designed to help at-risk students gain an education, and they can make a huge difference. Overall, alternative high schools have a graduation rate of 52% — 30 percentage points lower than the national average. But these students might not have graduated at all without the additional assistance alternative schools provide.

With the help of her mentors, Destyni set two big goals in the new program: graduating high school early and getting into college.

Getting to school was an hourlong commute for Destyni, but that didn’t slow her down at all. In addition to going to class every day — something new for her — she went to class on Saturdays, took online courses, and even spent her summers in the classroom.

“I just knew that whatever happened, I didn’t want to live my life in a shelter,” Destyni said.

But schoolwork wasn’t all she was doing. When she wasn’t in class, Destyni worked 25 hours a week at a local ice cream shop, was captain of the school’s cheer squad, and even found the time to go to prom — where her classmates nominated her to be their queen.

After prom came graduation, where she was awarded the Principal's Award for Academics and the Leadership Award.

Destyni also received another important award: a scholarship to Potomac State College of West Virginia University, where she will start classes at in the fall.

“My goal and career choice is to be a high school principal and to one day own my own charter school,” Destyni announced on her GoFundMe Page.

What does an award-winning high-school graduate who spent her teenage years in a shelter want to study in college?

Education, of course. Go, Destyni!

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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