Leonardo was only 6 years old when his mother re-married and moved to the United States without him. He was raised, in Mexico, by his grandmother until she became too ill to care for him. Leo was 12 years old when he moved to Florida to live with relatives. Once in the U.S., Leo was forced to move between aunts and cousins’ homes so often that he attended 3 different high schools and lived in 5 different houses. There were some days when he didn’t know where he would be sleeping that night.
Despite the obstacles, Leo was so committed to his education that he would wake up at 4:30 every morning to take the first bus to school in time for class at 7am. After moving around so much, Leo moved in with his mom and stepfather, who wanted him to quit school and go to work. When Leo refused, his stepfather kicked him out and Leo became homeless once again. However, he still kept his grades up and helped his classmates in the process.
Leo got help from an organization called Project Heart, which provides food stamps and donated clothes to homeless and abused students. He was able to graduate from high school with a 4.66 GPA and ranked first in his graduating class. Leo applied to 13-15 different universities and was accepted to many of them, including Harvard and Stanford. He is currently attending Stanford University in California. Thankfully, Leo was able to legalize his status through a visa for abused and neglected children and will be eligible for citizenship in a few years.
In Leo’s words: “I want to show people that even though you may be poor or you may not have parents or you might not have the support you need, that those things don’t matter…that if you keep working hard in life, if you keep looking to the horizon and dreaming about a better future…even when you don’t know what might happen tomorrow, if you keep trying if you work hard, the future is just a blank page.”