David Boone — a story of tragedy and triumph

From the pages of the Plain Dealer come an unforgettable and sobering story today. David Boone, an 18-year-old high school senior broke a record so many can only dream about — he was accepted into 22 of the 23 universities he applied for, including Yale, Brown, Penn State, Princeton, and Harvard, where he is headed this fall to study engineering and computer science.

The story wouldn’t be so eye-catching if David had not had so many odds against him. His parents split up when he was young and neither of them could take care of him. When he was in elementary school, David had severe medical problems that landed him in the hospital frequently. He was targeted by gang members who tried to force him to join and even took violent measures against  his family, an event which event resulted in the permanent split of his family.

David had to resort to sleeping on a park bench for long stretches of time when he had no place to go. He would shower in a friend’s house after the friend’s parents left for work. David is the ultimate survivor. He observed trends in inner city Cleveland and determined that people frowned at the sight of someone sleeping on a park bench in the evening but they didn’t mind if they slept there during the day — they were just taking a nap. So he changed his approach. He would sleep during the day and study at night.

Through the advice of a couple of key people who recognized early on how intelligent David was, he ended up going to a specialty high school in Cleveland which teaches science and technology. Not surprisingly, he excelled there and he is now headed to Harvard to pursue his dreams.

This story carries the elements of a perfect storm that could end badly. In fact, it ends badly every day on the streets of many towns and cities across the world. No child should ever have to endure what David did. Most would never have the resilience to keep going like he did. Somehow, he had the strength to stay focused. As he said, “I didn’t know what the results of not giving up were going to be, but it was better than nothing and having no advantages… I wanted to be in a position to have options to do what I want to do.”

Another aspect of this story that caught my attention was that some key individuals came alongside David at critical junctures in his life. Yes, you could say that they should have done more or were needed to be a little quicker taking action. Everyone has to share different levels of responsibilities for this near tragic experience. But the fact remains — some people stepped in when there seemed to be no hope. They gave him temporary shelter and helped guide him through decisions regarding his academic life.

My guess is all of us have at least one David-like youngster in our lives. What are we doing to help them?

Ivanildo C. Trindade