Age 23.
Graduate of Mandarin High School. Attending University of North Florida.

The seventh of eight children, Dominic always stood out in the stadium-area public housing complex where he grew up.

His mother tried to shelter Dominic and his siblings from negative influences that lurked just outside their door. That’s why Dominic often had to stay inside studying all afternoon while his friends played outside. He endured their mockery for getting good grades, especially as he moved on to middle school.

But the spark within Dominic would not dim. He excelled academically, and when he hit a rough patch in seventh-grade math, the Team Up after-school program helped Dominic one-on-one with his homework.

In ninth grade, he got a mentor from Communities In Schools, a relationship that helped him through struggles throughout high school and even college when he had to make a difficult choice between pleasing his family and continuing his education.

Through the help of community organizations, Dominic defied expectations. As a high school senior, he was awarded scholarships from Take Stock in Children and the Hicks Prep Club. Today, Dominic is set to graduate from University of North Florida.

While Dominic occupies his life with work, college and community service, he sometimes can’t help but think of the peers he once watched playing outside. Four people he grew up with are currently serving life sentences in prison. Another he saw once walking along the road, strung out on drugs.

“I saw him and I didn't know what to say. I picked him up, took him to McDonalds and got him something to eat,” Dominic said. “He was one of the same guys who taunted me in school. I really felt sad for him.”

The memory of that day is one of the reasons why Dominic spends his free time tutoring children in need. He hopes to do for them what others did for him, exposing them to a life where attending college is routine—not a matter of beating the odds.