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ODU graduating senior defies odds after years in foster care

Only 3% of former foster care youth earn a college degree, according to the National Foster Youth Institute.

NORFOLK, Va. — Melvin Roy will walk across the stage Saturday to receive his bachelor's degree in human services from Old Dominion University.

The 21-year-old Richmond native reflected on the big milestone in an interview on Thursday.

"Going through such hardships growing up, now to look back and just to say I did it," he said. "I made it to the end, the finish line. It's huge."

It's huge because right as Roy started high school, he entered the foster care system and was placed in a total of four foster homes.

"I went through so many struggles personally, academically. My academics were like a rollercoaster, my personal life was like a rollercoaster," said Roy. 

The rollercoaster eventually landed him at ODU in the fall of 2018.

"Then, a whole whirlwind of opportunities came after that," he said. 

Roy founded a campus organization called Foster-U, a group that encourages foster youth to pursue higher forms of education. While advocating for them, Roy also wants to set an example.

Only 3% of former foster youth earn a college degree, according to the National Foster Youth Institute.

"There's a story that's still within me. And there's a motivation that's within me to make things better for those kids behind me," said Roy. 

During college, Roy stayed busy, getting involved with other organizations and interning every summer.

"Being so young, being so mature with my head on straight, I now see my future very clearly," he added. 

He continues to stay busy, as he pursues a master's degree at Regent University.

By the end of May, Roy will also start an internship in Washington D.C.

He envisions a future in politics and entertainment. However, no matter where the future takes him, Roy said he will always try to give back. 

"Some kids really are just waiting for that opportunity to come, that knock on the door, saying, 'Here, I'm here to help you, I want to uplift you, I want to take you to where you need to be,'" he said. 

Graduation ceremonies at Old Dominion University will take place Friday and Saturday. 

Award-winning actress Angela Bassett will deliver a commencement address for the College of Arts and Letters undergrads on Friday. 

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