In the spring of 2008, 17-year-old Alex Chivescu, a ward of the state of Michigan, sat down to write the most important letter of his life—dozens of letters, in fact. No, not to universities, but to people he’d never met before asking them for something even more critical to his future—a home.
“I’m sure you’ve never received a letter of this nature before, and I’m also quite sure you will be surprised, albeit unpleasantly, at the circumstances under which I am writing.”
In his letters, the Stoney Creek High School student described those circumstances in a manner as simple and straightforward as one could imagine.
When he was 2 years old, his parents divorced and he hadn’t seen or heard from his father since. His mother was loving, caring, and always taught her son to be self reliant.
“I’d ask her something, and she wouldn’t give me an answer; she’d tell me where I could find the information,” he told People. “[She] was always there for me,” he said.
He also credits his mother—who spoke six languages and had a Ph.D. in computer science—for getting him on the path of academia at an early age.
In fact, his mother was a college professor when she got into a car accident that left her with a severe head injury. She was never the same after that.
“Night and day,” the Stoney Creek High School student told CBS News. She would go into violent rages: yelling at then 9-year-old Alex, throwing objects, and slamming doors. “She would become abusive and neglectful.” Alex took on the role of caregiver as his mother lost her job, her apartment, and eventually, her rights as a parent.
He cycled through the foster system going back and forth from his mother’s house and different foster homes. Eventually when Alex was 17 years old, he pushed to terminate her parental rights because he said he “would have been placed back with her and the circus would have gone on.”
Throughout it all, school was his only constant.
Alex excelled brilliantly at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester. His SAT scores were almost perfect and his dream was to get accepted to an Ivy League school.
“He’s a very bright young man,” his counselor Colette Judge told CBS. “When things were crazy at home, he could focus on school and that made it better for him.”
He had a strong network of friends, teachers, and counselors at Stoney Creek. It was the one place where he truly felt at home and it was where he desperately wanted to finish his senior year.
“My school means everything to me,” Alex wrote. “When chaos reigned at home, I immersed myself in my studies and my friends.”
But when Alex became a ward of the state, he wound up at The Children’s Home, an orphanage in Detroit—about 30 miles away and in another district from Stoney Creek High School. He needed to live closer.
But being a 17-year-old boy, he didn’t exactly make him an easy placement. His case worker had basically stopped trying to find him a foster family, so he took matters into his own hands—something he learned from his mom—and turned to Google.
“Nobody was advocating for him,” said Judge. “So he had to advocate for himself.”
“I searched,” Alex told CBS. “Pulled up court records and I started looking up foster care listings.”
That’s how he got to crafting the most important letter of his life. A letter that would determine his future more than any other, a letter that most teenagers would never write, one that probably has never been written before.
He wrote, “I understand it is a great emotional and financial burden to take a 17-year-old into your home, but I want to make several things clear. You have no commitment to me after I graduate from high school next year; I pay for myself, find my own scholarships, get myself a job, apply for my own financial aid — there is no undue burden beyond what you have already agreed to… . Truly all I need is someplace to stay.”
He sent it out to several prospective foster parents in the Rochester area hoping for the best, and what he got in return was much more than he asked for. Parents of four children of their own, Jim and Suzanne Bante, opened their home and their hearts to Alex—permanently.
“We’ve grown to love him. He’s a member of the family. We hope he chooses to stay there,” Jim told CBS.
“They treat me like a son,” Alex told People. “I got the whole family deal.”
That was almost 10 years ago. Today, Alex has graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics and he and the Bantes are still going strong as a family. He said he couldn’t have done it alone and thanks his teachers, counselors, and friends who’ve stepped in.