Getting into your dream school and pursuing your dreams can be a daunting challenge for any high schooler—but it’s even more difficult if you’ve faced hardships.
That was the case for Sebastian Crawford, a teen from North Las Vegas. Most of his young life has been a struggle: he hasn’t seen his mother since he was 5 years old; she left him in the care of his father, an alcoholic who has struggled to stay employed.
“The first 14 years of my life I was lost,” Crawford told KTNV.
In his junior year at Rancho High School, he even became homeless for eight months, eventually moving in with his girlfriend’s family.
“I thought I was putting on a good face,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
But deep down, Crawford had big dreams for himself.
In spite of the odds, Crawford wanted to attend college and study to be a aerospace engineer. He developed an interest in space science after seeing the 2014 sci-fi film Interstellar.
“I just wanted to know [about the science],” he said. “My friends didn’t know, they couldn’t answer my questions.”
He had another breakthrough at 16, when he bought his own car—and suddenly felt a surge of independence and self-confidence.
“I had control finally,” he told KTNV. “[A feeling] that I can end up where I wanted to be.”
With his sights firmly set, Crawford began working hard to put himself through high school. He began studying at an extracirricular aviation program.
To support himself financially, he flipped cars and worked at a pizza restaurant … but it still wasn’t quite enough. According to the Review-Journal, he had to drop out of his flight program when he couldn’t afford the $7,500 he would need for a pilot’s license.
But Crawford wasn’t discouraged: “You have to eliminate the I can’t do it attitude,” he told KTNV. “That’s the most important thing.”
But eventually, his hard work paid off—big time:
He won a $25,000 scholarship!
Crawford was one of the 106 students in the U.S. who received this year’s Horatio Alger Scholarship—an annual program that grants money to low-income students who maintain a 3.8 GPA.
For the teen, this was life-changing news:
“I jumped on to my chair,” he recalled. “It was sort of like a Tom Cruise moment when he jumps on the couch out of nowhere.”
Crawford is still waiting to hear back from colleges, but it’s safe to say he has a bright future ahead of him, one where he finally won’t have to worry too much about finances.
But no matter where he goes, the teen knows that it’s his optimistic attitude that will guide him along the way:
“It’s not the school that’s going to make me great,” he told the Review-Journal.