PORT TAMPA — Robinson High School senior Aivory Foster was never one to take shortcuts.
So when it came to college, it was a no-brainer for the 18-year-old to apply to schools with the most rigorous academic admission screenings. Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and Brown were all on his list, but in the end he chose Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Foster will play football for the school and study macroeconomics. After graduating, the plan is to dabble in investment banking and real estate before opening his own business (or two). For the first-generation college student, it's an opportunity to support himself without taking what he calls the easy way".
"I've seen a lot of people in the area that I come from selling drugs and doing things you wouldn't consider ethical to make money," Foster said. "I didn't want to throw my life away to take care of my family."
For the past four years, the Port Tampa teen has learned the ins and outs of business as a manager at Sailor Mike's Bait & Tackle. He started working the 12-hour weekend shifts when his mother, an ultrasound technician, had to take a break from work because of ankle surgery.
Foster doesn't have contact with his father. He stepped to the plate to help with family expenses.
"I grew up a lot faster than my peers," he said. "But I can say overall it had a positive impact on me."
It was tough to balance work, his high school course load, and sports — Foster played on Robinson's varsity football team for 31/2 years — but he still managed to pull a 3.7 unweighted grade point average. When you add in credit from Foster's AP classes, his GPA jumps up to 5.82.
"He's so beyond his years; he never complains," said Shawn Taylor, Robinson's head coach. "I struggle with getting kids just to do their homework."
He also got crowned homecoming king in his senior year.
Shortly after he accepted his coronation into high school royalty, Foster took a helmet to the knee during Robinson's homecoming game. It was bad. At first his injuries threatened to end his football days for good.
But his recovery is speeding along and it looks like he will be fine to play on Johns Hopkins' team next season.
Foster is stoked about heading to Baltimore. Sure, he'll miss his mom and 9-year-old sister, but he plans to come home as often as he can and maybe get an internship in Tampa. He's already made a few friends among his new football teammates. Everything about the future is perfect.
Well, almost everything.
"The only thing I worry about," Foster said, "is the cold weather."
Contact Helen Anne Travis at email@example.com.