On February 14, 2018, my life changed in an instant. A freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, I was sitting in my last period, English, when one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history began. Call it luck or fate, the shooter bypassed my room, with its door slightly ajar, and proceeded to fire into the room next door. But my real story isn’t about what happened that day, it’s about the critical question I was forced to face in the aftermath: would the course of my life be determined by uncontrollable situations or my reactions to those situations? Although it took conscious effort and substantial support, I eventually decided that I want my life to be defined by the choices I make in response to the challenges I face.
As the son of a white mother and a Black father, I’ve always been aware of the vast discrepancy in circumstance and opportunity between the two sides of my family. With extra free time during pandemic isolation, I had the idea to start a foundation with my mother, Authors4Education, in pursuit of my goal: to build a bridge between my two disparate backgrounds, with a focus on improving educational equity and opportunity. I’ve learned to focus on what is within my control—taking the small steps that lead to bigger accomplishments. No matter the challenge, my resilience and determination propel me forward. Adversity is inevitable, but how I respond to and overcome challenges will determine my legacy.