WENDELL, N.C. — Getting into Stanford is a very challenging feat, but one North Carolina teen earned the honor without a permanent home in which to complete her school work.
To her fellow classmates at East Wake High School, Megan Faircloth is known as the girl who finished at the top of her class. What many of them didn't know until recently is that she spent the majority of her junior and senior years homeless, according to Raleigh's News & Observer.
Faircloth's family came into hard times in 2015 and was ultimately evicted from their home. For the next two years, Faircloth, her mother and two sisters bounced from motels to shelters to family members' homes — often even sleeping in their car when they didn't have the money for lodging, according to the News & Observer.
"We'd be running around all day and then we'd get a motel room at 12 o'clock at night, and then I'd have to start my homework," Faircloth said. "It was physically exhausting. We didn't have much money for food or anything either."
Throughout this time, Faircloth was trying to balance seven AP classes, student government, extracurricular clubs and her regular school work. But despite the heavy course load, the classroom became a haven for her, according to WTVD News.
"My life was really chaotic outside of school, but when I got to school, everything I had, it was under my control," she said. "Like everything I wanted to do was my choice and so I let that empower me."
Faircloth put her head down and continued to work hard, despite her circumstances. She began the college application process, even though she didn't have a permanent address to include on the forms, according to ABC News.
"My biggest low was when… it was windy outside and I was trying to pin down my homework with all of my books and stuff like that and it started raining on my homework," she said. "I was like, 'This can either be the end or this is the beginning of me fighting on and deciding to go through all of this and try my best. I just tried to keep my spirit up."
The summer between her junior and senior years, Stanford University reached out to Faircloth. That boost was just what she needed to help her realize her potential.
"Before then, I hadn't really thought about Stanford that much or the possibility of going to one of the top, like a prestigious school like that, and I really would've been satisfied with going to any college at that point, 'cause I just wanted an education," she told ABC.
The hard work paid off — acceptance letters began pouring in. Fairchild told the News & Observer she was offered scholarships from schools like the University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill and Virginia, but ultimately decided on Stanford — where she was offered a nearly-full tuition scholarship.
Faircloth managed to keep her personal life hidden from her classmates, but decided to open up about her experiences at a senior banquet night last week — something that wasn't easy for her.
"When I got done with the speech, I walked off the stage and looked to the side and everyone was standing and clapping," she told the News & Observer. "… I didn't think it would have that much an effect on people."
Faircloth credits much of her success to her teachers, whom she says never gave up on her and instilled in her the confidence she needed to persevere.
"My teachers treated me as though I was equal with the other students. I feel like I wouldn't be here if not for them," she told the News & Observer. "They didn't care where I lived. I was only judged by the quality of the work I was putting in. It was like an escape."
Faircloth's teachers are her biggest fans, and say hers is a story to remember.
"It's a lesson that teachers should hear," Emily Steele, Faircloth's AP government and economics teacher, told WTDV. "Because we do have an impact, whether we know it or not. Because I know she had some teachers that maybe didn't realize."
Faircloth plans to pursue a career in education, hoping to help kids like herself.