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UVA grad overcame homelessness and now plans to give back

Eli Stacy never thought he’d graduate from college, let alone the University of Virginia. But on May 21, 2016, he walked the iconic U.Va. Lawn to receive his bachelor’s degree in sociology.

Stacy, 29 and the youngest of six brothers, grew up with few resources. After his mom died when he was 6, the family struggled even more.

“I learned early on that when you’re worried about your most basic needs, it’s really tough to focus on school,” he said.

During his senior year in high school, the family became homeless. With determination, Stacy managed to graduate from First Colonial High School. “My education became very important to me,” he said.

He enrolled at Tidewater Community College to honor his mother’s wishes. “She wanted me to get an education and really do something to make a difference,” he said.

“I came to TCC because I knew it would give me access to the best four-year schools in Virginia,” Stacy said. “TCC was also affordable, and I was really interested in leaving college with little debt.”

Stacy earned his Associate of Science in Social Sciences at TCC in 2014, holding a perfect GPA. His transfer to U.Va., he said, was “seamless,” and he graduated with a 3.7 GPA.

“I want students to know that they are not at a lesser institution,” he said. “You are at a place to get the building blocks to go wherever you want to go.”

He plans to work for Feeding America or another service organization. “My heart and intent is to now help other people move forward,” he said. “I know firsthand that food goes a long way to helping children succeed in school.”

While at U.Va., Stacy chaired the Luther Porter Jackson Black Male Initiative, where he worked to increase the academic and social success of black male students. “I want other students to see that success is always possible,” he said. “If you are really interested in learning and you keep that knowledge fresh, you really can go anywhere.”

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