Jorge Campos, a high school senior from Palmdale, California, has experienced quite a bit in his short 17 years of life.
Yet, despite obstacles that would have left many feeling helpless, the savvy teen has defied the odds and will be attending Harvard University in the fall.
“Living in the present is OK, but constantly thinking about your future is even better,” Jorge told ABC 7, a local news channel in Los Angeles.
And it’s precisely this attitude that has helped the teen get ahead.
Jorge was 13 and about to start high school when his father lost his job, resulting in the family of six becoming homeless for three months.
During this time, while the Campos shuffled from relatives’ homes, hotels and spent time living out of a van, Jorge enrolled in college-level courses at Los Angeles Community College, where he learned about money.
I took on the budget. I took on all the finances. All the bills that are paid at home run through me. Jorge Campos
“I took on the budget. I took on all the finances. All the bills that are paid at home run through me,” Jorge told KTLA, a new channel in Los Angeles.
Jorge was so good with his family’s finances that two years ago, Jorge helped the family buy a home in Palmdale.
The purchase was a success for the Campos family, but it meant Jorge would now have to travel 140 miles round trip for school.
Jorge grew up in South L.A., just blocks away from the University of Southern California campus in Exposition Park. The university offers a federally-funded program called TRIO Upward Bound Math and Science, which motivates and supports low-income, first-generation and minority students. Due to Jorge’s Mexican heritage and financial state, he was invited to join the program at his high school in South L.A. during his freshman year.
Palmdale, where his family bought a house, was 70 miles from Jorge’s childhood home.
Yet, Jorge stayed at his high school and stuck with the program, sometimes getting home at 11 p.m. or midnight and rising at 5 a.m. for school.
But all the effort was worth it. Jorge credits the program for all of his accomplishments, which includes getting a full scholarship to Harvard where he plans to study economics.
Jorge was honored along with other upward bound students on Tuesday during a ceremony, and his mentors believe he’ll go far.
Theda Douglas, associate vice president of USC university relations, told ABC 7:
“I think he’s going to be able to give back to our world and inspire other young people and kids of color who didn’t think that they could actually do it.”