From homeless to future college student: Oklahoma City teen gets accepted to OU

Scott Foley's love of music gave him extra motivation to succeed at school, despite a difficult home life. (Scott Foley)

An Oklahoma City Public Schools student is headed to the University of Oklahoma this fall, after overcoming a life-threatening disease and homelessness.

“We didn’t have a home, we lost our car, and I really had no friends,” said 18-year-old Foley Smith.

Now his future looks bright, thanks to the support of his teachers and his love of music.

"Learning an instrument is super hard,” Foley said. “Some people can’t do it. So the fact that you can, anytime you feel discouraged, you’re like, ‘I can play an instrument, I can do this.’”

Foley found motivation in music – he plays the guitar, trombone, and euphonium – as his life started to fall apart. It started with a bout of severe appendicitis.

“We lost my SoonerCare after like two nights in the ICU,” he said. “I think I had like $60-80,000 worth of medical bills, and my parents took off a collective two weeks from work because they thought I was going to die.”

Foley recovered, but his parents eventually lost their jobs, their home, and their car. They moved into a barn on a farm in Paoli with his brother, sister, and grandparents.

“I stayed out there for two years,” Smith said. “The first year was really bad. There was no running water in our building, no electricity, and no heat.”

He struggled to get his schoolwork done, but finally decided things had to change going into his junior year at Capitol Hill High School.

“I’d walk out and be like, that is not what I can do,” said Foley. “I got to the point where I was pushing at it.”

And an ensemble formed around him – teachers pushing him to excel and counselors helping him get meals through the food bank.

“It’s a lot easier to work and wake up when you’ve been able to eat,” Foley said. “Even the small stuff – like saltines and peanut butter – that was very fulfilling.”

All the hard work led to an acceptance letter from OU.

“I’m going to major in Music Ed and then I want to open up my own guitar program or marching band program either in Oklahoma City or Noble at a school district that needs another one,” he said.

Foley hopes to show kids like him the power of music.

“It really gives you a lot of determination and drive,” he said.

According to the most recent count from OCKPS in 2015, there are more than 2,000 homeless students in the district. There is an outreach program set up to help homeless children.

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