Teenage Tenacity: From Sleeping on the Streets to a Full Scholarship at Harvard

Takepart.comSeptember 15, 2012

According to Ebony, David Boone had never been a particularly great student. And when he became homeless at the age of 14, his academic fate looked worse than ever. However, with the help of a dedicated group of educators, and a science-based curriculum, Boone went from Cs and Ds in middle school to the honor roll in high school. This fall, he begins his freshman year at Harvard University, as a double major on full academic scholarship.

Growing up in East Cleveland, David Boone was no stranger to gang violence, The Huffington Post reports. He recounts that after his family's home was shot at, his parents and siblings split up to stay with various relatives. Unable to find a long-term living situation for himself, the middle-schooler was left on his own, and took to sleeping on the streets. The teen remembers being so afraid of what might happen to him in the dark, he stayed awake at night and slept through his days.

Eventually, Boone found shelter with his school’s principal. Finally able to sleep safely at night, the teen could focus on his education. He enrolled at a magnet high school that taught a rigorous science-based curriculum, which so excited Boone, his grades quickly improved.

He writes, "My principal had given me Ron Suskind’s book A Hope in the Unseen about Cedric Jennings' journey from the inner city to the Ivy League. That story gave me the courage not only to apply to college, but also to aim for academically rigorous schools."

With the help of an after-school mentoring program, Minds Matter, Boone applied to 23 universities in all, and graduated as his high school class’ salutatorian, with a 3.8 GPA. At Harvard, he’ll major in electrical engineering and computer science. He hopes to start a tech company, but says his personal dream is to help his family break its cycle of poverty. Boone explains to Ebony, “During my most challenging days, caring people have come along to lend me a hand. One day, I’d love to return to that favor.”

Have you ever witnessed someone accomplish amazing things, academically or otherwise, simply because they had the right kind of encouragement? Let us know about your experiences in the Comments.

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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer.  In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a web editor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com