The Harvard Boy With Nothing.

Good inspiration can come from anywhere; we just need to be aware of what is happening around us and draw the morals out of it. Today it’s a boy who rose from the ashes with only determination and faith to his name.

Usually, when someone doesn’t make it in life, they have reasons for it, abusive parents, unsupportive family, wrong friends, bad schools, no financial support, etc. Everyone walks around with regret and conviction that their excuses were the reason their life turned upside down, but do we realize the extent of damage one does to their future by believing those false misconceptions? Instead of self-reflecting, we project our failures onto others but how many times do we say the phrases “I failed because of me”; “I failed because I didn’t try hard enough”; “I failed because I didn’t believe in myself”; “I failed because I quit too soon.” Almost never! It’s too painful and unbearable to admit it. However, there are some brave souls who aren’t like that, and they make something of their lives no matter what their circumstances were.


This story is about an extraordinary boy who was dealt the worst cards in life and still didn’t make the excuses, still didn’t blame anyone for ruining his life and ended up in Harvard. His father left when he was young, and he lived with a mother who was battling some form of mental illness. She would have episodes and required treatment at the hospital which lasted months. During that period, the boy had to live with foster families until his mother got stable. It became almost habitual every time an ambulance came; a social worker would also come and take away the boy. They would say their goodbyes on the street and part their ways not knowing when one will see the other.


When the mother was home, she would often get paranoia attacks and lash out at her son. The child recognized the onset of the symptoms and would hide for hours until it subsided. He could not react or speak out against his sick mother, who didn’t realize what she became during those attacks and how much she was hurting him. There were times when she would show up at school and yell at him in front of all his friends. As a result, he was either bullied at school or got immense support from friends who felt terrible for him.

The mother had graduated from an Ivy league school and had a successful career before her illness exacerbated to the point where she could not hold any job. Naturally, the grief and anger were killing her but she always wished that her son would go on to live a normal and prosperous life. When she felt normal, she encouraged her son to work hard in school and to never give up on himself. It was the only way things will change for him.

bigstock--202700374As time went, their situation became more and more dire. The illness progressed faster and treatment required longer times. By 16, the boy had been in and out of several foster homes. He would go to school during the day and worked at nights to support himself. The boy was fed up with his life. He wanted to focus on getting through the year and getting accepted into an Ivy league university, just like his mother but he could not let any emotional turmoil at home destroy his chances for a better future. He worked very hard to get this point and believed he had what it takes to get into the best universities in the country despite all of his setbacks. He decided to take a drastic step.

One day, the mother was summoned by the court for a hearing. She was in complete shock and disbelief to find out that her son had filed a case against her to take away her parental rights. You’re thinking, how could a son do that to his sick mother? But he had his reasons. His mother wasn’t mentally sound anymore and he could not understand how to take care of his mother and be able to focus in school. By taking away her rights, he would not be moved to foster homes and have his life uprooted every time his mother got an attack. He had to make his life stable for him to succeed. The decision was a practical one, not an emotional one. No piece of paper can erase the bonds between a child and his mother.


The mother got admitted into a mental facility where she would be taken care of, while the boy started living in a youth hostel. The Children’s Aid Society took up the cost of boarding and transportation, and life started to feel normal. In this duration, he kept in touch with his mother and went to visit her whenever possible. Anyone who knew his story encouraged him in his struggle and kept motivating him during his lowest moments but life took a turn for the worst one more time.

Teenage boy writing in notebook

Everything was stable for a while until one day CAS, couldn’t support him anymore and had to move him to another foster home. As a result, he also had to change schools which would have hindered his university application process. It devastated him, and once again he tried to fight for his life. He sent a letter to every house in the community, pleading and requesting them to take him in until he graduated. Some families agreed to see him but for some reason or the other, things did not work out, and the child would be devastated each time. Regardless, he kept trying and sending out those letters to as many people as possible. One day a promising family contacted him, and he went to the interview thinking he would surely be rejected again, but instead, the family instantly liked him and took him home.

They helped him throughout the year to adjust to a new family and build a level of trust but the boy, as much grateful as he was, would keep them at bay. Even though he could not understand the familial love, he still tried to show his appreciation in every way he could and they, in turn, respected his space and encouraged him whenever he needed it most.

young graduates students group  standing in front of university

Slowly, time smoothed out all uncertainties, bonds started to form and he opened up. The family soon decided to adopt him and ensured nothing would prevent this boy from succeeding. They sent out applications to all the top universities in the country and got accepted by almost all of them with a scholarship. It was up to him where he chose to go. When he graduated as Valedictorian of his class, he thanked his mother for encouraging him in their good moments and pushing him in their bad ones. He also thanked his new family for supporting him and for showing up at a time in his life when everything was about to end for him.

What a life ! What an example to us all ! Can anyone survive such circumstances? His mother was responsible for all his struggles but in the end, he still thanks her? You might say this is an exceptional story but I believe this could be anyone’s story if only they had that kind of determination and faith in themselves. Give this a thought. We all think that to succeed in life; one has to be raised a certain way, have a secure family environment and go to prestigious schools to ensure a successful outcome. This boy had nothing! This kid could have made a hundred excuses to not succeed in his life, and they would have been reasonable but he didn’t, and he chose to make something of his life instead.

Parents, all it takes is a little encouragement. All these kids need are the right words and the proper motivation. Simplify your child’s life and keep them focused. They don’t need you to tell them what to do, where to go and how to get there. They are predisposed to survive and they are capable of becoming something as long as someone has got their back. That’s all they need from you. As a parent, it is your job to ease their fears and reaffirm their faith in themselves. All it takes is a few positive words. The mother in the story only had a few lucid moments in her life to encourage her child, and that changed everything for her son. Those few moments got him to where he needed to be. How many moments do you have and how do you use them?

Kids, You have no excuse to give up on yourself. Life doesn’t need to be perfect for you to succeed. You just need to believe in yourself even when everyone around you doesn’t. Material things, perfect relationships, and prestigious schools don’t make you successful. Take any successful person and find out where they came from, find out their story and you will find that almost all of them were living in unfortunate circumstances, but they made their weaknesses into their strengths and changed their lives. The answer lies with you. Do you want to do the dirty work or not? Do you want to take that first step? Are you willing to go through everything that life throws at you for the thing you are desperate to achieve? When you are at your lowest point in life, can you rise from the ashes and become someone? Are you good enough to become someone’s inspiration? Then all you have to do is work hard. One day, all your struggles will come together and your life will make sense.

Moral- You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing! Be someone’s inspiration.

P.S- (I saw a biopic a year ago and never forgot this story. I tried to google it but nothing came up so some details may be a little fuzzy. Regardless, I had to share it. If anyone knows the story or has seen the documentary, please let me know. Thank you)

2 thoughts on “The Harvard Boy With Nothing.

Add yours

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: