Meet the Harvard-bound Solorio HS Grad Determined to Defy the Odds
STUDENTS | June 12, 2019
Meet the Harvard-bound Solorio HS Grad Determined to Defy the Odds

Amado Candelario, a senior at Solorio Academy High School on the Southwest Side of Chicago, said he always knew he’d attend Harvard University. As far back as the seventh grade, he would tell classmates and family that he would one day study at the prestigious university.

His dream became a reality when he was offered a tuition-free ride to Harvard and was selected out of 5,200 qualified nominees as one of the 2019 US Presidential Scholars.

Candelario will begin his college journey this fall and said that he aspires to become an immigration lawyer to give back to his community.

“Originally, I wanted to go to Harvard to disprove people’s beliefs about what certain students from certain backgrounds can do,” said Candelario. “But it became my dream university and the place I could see myself at. Getting accepted was surreal.”

Growing up, Candelario said he was often told that his dreams and aspirations were “too big.” Some even laughed, he said.

“There’s this implicit schema that people incorporate into their mind about students on the Southwest Side of Chicago,” said Candelario. “They think because you live in a certain neighborhood or go to a certain school that your fate is sealed. I planned to prove them wrong.”

His determination to “defy the odds” began at home.

His mother immigrated to the United States, Candelario said, adding that she raised him to be a “fighter,” and taught him that hard work is required for success.

On tough days, he, his mother and sisters tell each other “Sí, se puede,” or “Yes, you can!”

“My mom really wanted me to have the best,” he said. “I promised her when I entered high school that she wouldn’t pay a single dime for the university I’d attend, and it [came] true, she won’t have to.”

At Solorio, Candelario said he worked hard to reach his goals. He took rigorous courses, all while being active in extracurriculars.

In his senior year alone, the Chicago Scholar took four Advanced Placement classes, participated in the National Honor Society and Zero Waste Club, a club that researches alternative ways to reduce waste, and, as co-captain, led the debate team to the city championship and won.

At times, the countless responsibilities were overwhelming, he said. But remembering that “it was all part of the process” helped him prevail.

“The reality of it all is that life won’t always be easy,” he said. “But you have to remember that you can overcome anything.”

Thanks to his family and the encouragement of teachers like his debate coach, Conor Cameron, Candelario said his dream of attending Harvard was able to come to fruition.

He added that the thought of life after high school without the presence of his family and teachers is “intimidating.”

A recent incoming student weekend at Harvard brought him face-to-face with his fears.

“Going to the airport and realizing that I was alone was upsetting. A lot of the friends that I met, their parents were right there with them. It was really emotional because it was super scary.”

Remembering why he’s striving for success helped him stay strong, he said.

“I’m doing it for the people that have supported me, not just myself,” said Candelario. “I’m remembering to be grateful and be positive and to have affirmations for myself to believe that I was given this chance for a reason.”

Though it may be frightening, he said he’s ready for his next stage in life.

For anyone hoping to follow in his footsteps, he has two words of advice: be yourself.

“It’s never too late to be who you could’ve been. The world is intrinsically unfair, but you have to believe in who you are and your goals and aspirations.”