Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Inspiring Success Story Fueled by Family and Fortitude

Ila Bonczek
Ila lives in the Garden State with her family and four chickens. She has been growing produce and perennials for 20 years, and recommends gardening for food and fun, but not for fortune.
Published: April 6, 2022
Griffin Furlong, accomplished Civil Engineer and aspiring author, shares his journey through poverty and tells what inspired him to become an overachiever. (Image: Audrey Abram)

Griffin Furlong, 26, is writing a book. Not a thriller, not a graphic novel, not even fiction at all; although it may seem like a fairytale. This young man is writing to share his inspiring success story of how he struggled through poverty and homelessness, how he maintained a positive attitude and never gave up, and how he became the successful and responsible young man that he is today. 

Life took its first dramatic turn for Griffin when he lost his mother to leukemia at the age of six. Although he could not grasp the gravity of the situation during her sickness, he knew that his mother was suffering. Even as she was fading in the hospital, she had helped him learn to read. He remembers realizing that “life was very, very fragile.”

The last time he held his mother’s hand was at her funeral, cold and lifeless. Afterward, crying together in their shared room at home, he and his older brother Sean vowed that they would always be there for each other. As the family went through many subsequent trials, they held true to this promise. 

Photo of Griffin at age four with his mother, and his baseball cap inscribed with his inspiring words “NEVER GIVE UP.” (Image: Courtesy of Griffin Furlong)

Soon, their grieving father lost his job as a car salesman. He applied for unemployment to support his boys, but with depleted resources, they began a descent into poverty. From their rented house, they moved to a rented apartment. When Griffin was seven, they were evicted and started bouncing around between friends and relatives and hotels. By the time he was nine, they were living in homeless shelters. 

They had no home, no car, and were often hungry. He recalls sharing a dirty, unheated, two-bunk room with another family at the Wayside Christian Mission in Louisville, Kentucky, yet he views the experience as a test of stamina. 

This VOA homeless shelter was one of Griffin’s many temporary lodgings. (Image: Courtesy of Griffin Furlong)

He chose to take an “attitude of gratitude” for the positive things about his life. Griffin told Vision Times “When I was embarrassed at school, walking countless miles for food, or not being able to sleep at night,one of the main things that kept him motivated was “having a loving family that supported my every move. My brother and dad had my back through thick and thin. I didn’t want to give up on them or my mom.”

As often happens, his positive attitude brought positive changes. His paternal grandmother in Florida offered to take the boys in for some time. That year, when he was 11, Griffin got straight As in school. His brother encouraged him to keep it up and become Valedictorian, and that’s exactly what he did. 

The trials continued, and he said “it took patience, time, and stamina to continually observe the world around me and make a choice to do better.” Having a dream, or a goal helped. “Creating goals made me look forward to waking up the next day, even if it was at the shelter.” For seven years, he was a model student, earning top grades and never missing an assignment.

Baseball brought some normalcy and bright moments to Griffin’s otherwise unstable youth. As he recounted for Sports Illustrated, however, he lost concentration on the pitcher’s mound hours after he had learned that he was homeless once again, two months before his high school graduation. He couldn’t help thinking, “What am I going to eat for dinner? Where am I going to sleep?” 

Griffin, homeless at the time, gave a Valedictorian speech at his 2014 graduation ceremony, telling his peers, “I make the grades I do because once I was lost and had nothing.” (Image: Courtesy of Griffin Furlong)

This time his girlfriend’s parents took him in, supporting his efforts to apply to colleges, while he studied for final exams. Sean’s girlfriend urged him to share his story with the press, with the idea that it might land him a scholarship. Once he finally agreed, he quickly found himself on TV, 

On ABC News, Griffin revealed to the world that his family had recently lost their rental home because they couldn’t afford to live there. His classmates and teachers were all shocked by his story, and one fellow honors student even shared that she, too, had experienced homelessness.  

In a touching interview with NBC News, he shared that his mother had wanted the best for him, and that he wished she could have been there for his graduation. Teachers, friends and relatives all expressed their admiration for the young scholar, who “never missed a day of school” and “never asked anybody for anything.” The sudden publicity spurred an online fundraiser by his friends to amass more than $69,000 towards his college expenses.

Griffin continued to work hard and achieve his goals at Florida State University, where he studied engineering. (Image: J-a-x via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0)

Griffin attended Florida State University with a full academic scholarship and graduated magna cum laude in their Engineering program.  

While it may appear that academics was easy for Griffin, he shared with Vision Times how challenging it actually was, “Little do people know, but I failed many times throughout my life and have made many poor choices. I failed my multiplication table test in the third grade, I failed essays I wrote in the fifth grade, I failed many AP Exams in high school, and I failed my first college assignment.”


With great fortitude, he pushed through all his setbacks, “I think what helped me was learning how to reflect, becoming more aware of my days, and determining ways to improve myself. I made the choice to focus more often on my priorities, which in my case were: education, sports, and my family.”

Today, he is a civil engineer and an aspiring author.

Griffin treated his education as an important investment for the future, because he never wanted to live in poverty again. He shares his story to inspire others to do better, and asserts that his positive mindset was the key factor to his success.