Winter Park High School senior overcomes adversity to graduate at top of class

A Winter Park High School senior had beaten all odds against him, proving that previous circumstances didn’t determine his future.

Graduating at the top of his class, he has set an example for his peers and family.

"It definitely is exciting. I’m a first-generation college student, so it does mean a lot to my family that I’m graduating tomorrow. It’ll be our first time going to a high school graduation as a whole, so I’m setting an example for my younger siblings," said Jonathan Dupre of Winter Park High School.

Meet 18-year-old Jonathan Dupre. He graduated from Winter Park High School with a 4.3 GPA, but his road to graduation hasn’t been easy.

"I’m not going to lie, a lot of sleepless nights. One thing I will say that helped was just making sure I did my homework as soon as it was given to me in school to save as much time out of school as possible," said Dupre.

Out of roughly 800 graduates, Jonathan shows what it means to have resiliency and tenacity. Since 8th grade, he and his family have not lived in stable housing.


"I’ve been hotel hopping, so different hotels, motels, couch-surfing, stayed with friends. So I want this graduation to be an example for people who might be in my situation that you can still make it," said Dupre.

While in school, Jonathan balanced volunteering in the community, doing archery, and working countless hours at Earl’s Kitchen & Bar. This meant sometimes even doing his homework on the way to work.

"The bus ride, since I live so far away, I have to leave two hours in advance. So if I have a shift at 5, I have to leave my house 2-2:45-ish to get there on time, and I have to take two to three buses to get there," said Dupre.

All to be able to provide for himself, his mom, and three younger siblings.

"Just knowing I have a source of income, not only for my family but for myself, so I can enjoy things and prepare for college and save up to get a car, anything for a dorm room, it helps," said Dupre.

"Working with Jonathan was just incredibly rewarding. He is a kid that shows so much resiliency. Not having quite known his background when he first started, I just thought he was just this sharp kid who came in to get help with college. And as he came in more and more through the year and I learned more about him, I only became more impressed," said College Career Specialist Weeze Cullen.

Weeze Cullen is a college career specialist at Winter Park High School. She spent most of the school year working alongside Jonathan, helping prepare him for the future. I asked Weeze how excited she was to see him walk across that stage.

"Very excited. I never doubted it; he was never in question. But yes, hearing how much it means to his family and the role model he’s gonna be for them forever," said Cullen.

Jonathan says it was also thanks to his support system that helped push him to the finish line.

"It was hard, but having my family, my siblings, and mom who was trying her hardest to support me did make it easier along with my friends I made along the way," said Dupre.

Now, as he leaves high school and enters a new chapter in college, he offers some encouragement for the next batch of students who will follow in his footsteps.

"Just because you feel you don’t have the best of luck right now doesn’t mean it’s always gonna be that way, and you can still be great. I don’t want people to feel as though just because they’re not financially stable as the rest of their peers or going through hardships they can’t make it through life," said Dupre.

Jonathan will attend the University of Central Florida in the fall to study studio arts. He says his dream career is to work for a gaming company or animation studio.