CLEVELAND, Ohio -- David Boone, 18, walks the halls of Cleveland’s MC2STEM High School in his navy blue blazer, looking like a young man who owns the world. Chances are good that’s the kind of success he will find one day, not only because of where he's going but because of where he's been.
"Childhood is childhood. You live, you learn, and sometimes some challenges are thrown at you," he said.
David was homeless for part of his high school career; his family torn apart he says, by a neighborhood gang that resented his refusal to join.
"I guess their mentality was, 'You're either with us, or you're against us,' " he told Fox 8 News. "Eventually, it resulted in them vandalizing my home, making it unlivable."
David's allergies to pets prevented him from living with a family friend where his brothers and sisters were sent. It was the same with his mother's new home. David was left to fend for himself.
"That kind of put me in a position to where like I had to find different places back and forth to stay, and sometimes there was no place to go. I had to make a tough decision: where was I sleeping at night?" he remembered.
Sometimes he slept on a park bench, sometimes he slept nowhere at all, but through it all, he studied science, technology, engineering and math at MC2STEM, one of Cleveland’s New and Innovative Schools from where he will graduate with a full ride to Harvard University.
"I saw that as the way out. I saw going to any college as the way to escape, and a way to secure that these types of things don't continue to happen to my family," said the 18-year-old.
He is one of 1,000 students guaranteed an education through the doctoral level thanks to a Gates Millennium Scholarship, an accomplishment of which he is proud.
I've always had this confident air about myself; I'm very humble, but it's just like I always believe in myself," he told Fox 8 News.
He believes in others too and in setting an example for them to follow. David plans to revisit MC2STEM when he's home from school, to encourage the kids who will one day claim a diploma as he is about to. It is a dream born under the stars from a bench that once doubled as a bed.
"For me, I promised myself I wouldn't cry; everyone does before they cry,” the teenager laughed, “I'm pretty sure there's going to be a lot of emotion there."
Twenty-two universities, including Harvard and Princeton, accepted David into their programs. He intends to study electrical engineering and computer science.