Alvin O'Garro, King High senior, may seem like your average teenager. He loves to solve Rubik's Cube puzzles and plays everything from Frisbee to football with his friends. But a closer look will reveal an entirely different story. "People often say that everyone can move up in America, and I agree with that to some extent, but moving up often requires way more effort and skill than most people who were never poor realize," O'Garro says.
He speaks from experience.
O'Garro's parents divorced when he was 8 and he, along with his mother and sister, were forced to uproot their lives and move to a low-income neighborhood in Tampa where the family struggled for years to stay afloat.
"Outside of food and housing, my family couldn't afford to do much," O'Garro says. This environment, though, had one major benefit: it encouraged O'Garro to form a strong dedication to education. "My mother told me when I was a child that I had to perform well in school, as that would be the key to getting out of the poverty in which I had grown up," O'Garro says.
As time went on, O'Garro developed a passion for math and science. With so many unanswered questions in his family and economic life, these subjects presented a special quality to this young man. "These subjects have always impressed me with their ability to provide answers to physical problems, but still intrigued me with their difficulty," he says.
O'Garro sees these passions carrying him through the next stages in his life, after graduation, as he intends to major in engineering or computer science.
The path to graduation has not been an easy endeavor for O'Garro.
"I haven't had much access to a lot of conveniences people take for granted. My mother worked long hours when I was in both elementary and middle school, and I couldn't participate in extracurricular activities for a long time because of a lack of transportation," he said.
O'Garro found his way around this problem by learning to use the city bus to his advantage, something a lot of teenagers can hardly fathom. He says that this created "a much greater sense of independence after having to rely on (himself) for so long."
Growing up in a poverty-stricken household ultimately shaped who O'Garro is today. He is a teenager mature beyond his years ,who can truly understand the weight of economic status and its correlation to education.
"I think moving up in socioeconomic status is a doable, but Herculean feat, especially if one was born into poverty. Often, the poor don't have the resources or the wherewithal to improve their status," O'Garro says.
However, he is attempting to do exactly that, and for him, it is working out.