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Whatever happened to . . . the boy who wants to save the world

"Will he save the world?"; May 29, 2007; see past coverage at

THE STORY: Hernando County teen Steve White, quirky, earnest and smart, graduated from Central High School last spring. He had been accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wanted to go to MIT because he thought it was the place that was going to help him learn the things he needed to learn so he could chase his most ambitious goal.

FROM THE STORY: Lots of amazing, promising, inspiring kids are graduating this month from high schools around the Tampa Bay area. They want to be surgeons and accountants and chemical engineers.

Steve? He wants to end all the poverty on the planet by 2050.

Some might say that's impossible, and maybe this makes him naive, and maybe he's just too young to know that some goals are too big.

And yet.

His history teacher, Hank Deslaurier, says Steve is the most remarkable student he has had in his seven years at Central. His English teacher, Ann Wolfe, says Steve's the best student she's had in 37 years. "He's above us all," Wolfe said. His guidance counselor, Ruth Owen, thinks Steve is going to be the next Bill Gates, using his gifts to amass great wealth, and using that to make the world into something better than what it is now.

THE REST OF THE STORY: Steve is an on-campus intern for the antipoverty campaign called One. He lives in iHouse, the International House for Global Leadership, which sounds like a pretty darn cool dorm. One of his roommates is from Massachusetts and the other is from Taiwan.

He has taken classes so far in things like microeconomics, differential equations, disease in society and multivariable calculus.

"The classes are hard, but not ridiculous," he said the other day on the phone.

"I liked multivariable calculus."

He's thinking he's going to major in economics and math.

Harder than the course work?

He has had to start wearing long pants instead of his beloved jean shorts. He can't get grits at the grocery store. And he has been back to Florida only for Thanksgiving and for a week and a half around Christmas.

"I don't mind the cold much," he said. "But it is far from home."

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: He wants to be an economist at a university or a think tank. That, he believes, will be his way to change the world. The goal remains.

"The problems that people face haven't gone away," he said.

Michael Kruse, Times staff writer

Whatever happened to . . . the boy who wants to save the world 03/29/08 [Last modified: Saturday, March 29, 2008 6:02am]
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