Varina graduate addresses struggle with depression in commencement speech

Local News

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Varina high school graduate spoke candidly about his battles with mental health and the pressures of getting into college.

His speech inspired hundreds at the commencement and is now going viral online.

“This past year I’ve suffered from depression.”

Alton Coston, III, wanted to be a voice for the voiceless in his graduation speech. Opening up to his fellow classmates, he wanted to give a speech that was authentic and real.

“I just wanted it to relate to so many people,” Coston said. “Depression is something that a lot of teens, not even teens, but a lot of people, in general, go through.”

At Varina, he was a varsity football captain, vice president of the honor society and would go on to graduate with honors.

“I was depressed because my family simply could not afford for me to go to college,” Coston told his graduating class during commencement.

His depression turned into suicidal thoughts. He soon reached a breaking point and confided in his family.

“I cried in their arms…my mother and father and sister,” he recalled during his speech. “I told them how I felt and in this very moment we did something that I will never forget, we locked hands and my father said these distinct words ‘Lord, we give you this situation.’

Coston said he continued to work hard and keep his faith. Weeks later, the College of William & Mary sent him his acceptance letter.

“I went running through the house,” Coston said.

Even better, he learned his tuition would be paid in full. Through it all, Alton thanked his parents for giving him the strength to share his story.

“They’re superheroes,” he said. “It’s unexplainable what they do for my life.”

Alton’s mother, Laveta Wynn-Coston says she is thankful for her son’s faith, determination, and humility.

“Parenting is an extremely hard job,” Wynn -Coston said. “You never know if you’re doing it right or wrong, you just pray about it and do the best you can.”

For Alton and his family, he tells 8News he’s thankful for the next step. He wants to pursue a degree in public policy with a minor in economics.

“(I’m) just a kid from Richmond, with dreams and aspirations,” Coston said. “Getting accepted into the College of William and Mary, not only getting accepted but to get a full-tuition scholarship…it’s honestly a blessing.”

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