While corralling errant shopping carts in the parking lot of a West Little River grocery store, Estanley Baptiste dreams of Harvard.
He works the late shift every night but Thursday, helping people unload their groceries and scouring the parking lot for trash. On a recent night, the parking lot empties early, and Estanley is called upon to mop the floors. This, he thinks to himself, should be part of his admissions essay.
When the supermarket closes at 10:30 p.m., Estanley, 19, walks the nine-tenths of a mile home to the apartment he shares with a friend. The money he makes covers his part of the rent: $300 a month.
Before collapsing onto the couch, Estanley boots up the laptop he won in a raffle and looks at a poem he wrote:
I'll soar higher than minds
Nothing will put me down
I'm on my way to shine
Estanley left Haiti and arrived at MIA less than four years ago with nothing -- no books, no luggage and no family.
His mother died when he was 6. His father lived in Miami, but didn't want him.
He moved in with an uncle he hardly knew.
Estanley enrolled at Miami Edison, not speaking any English. He carried an English-to-Creole dictionary everywhere he went.
When Estanley's uncle returned to Haiti, the boy was left on his own.
Still, Estanley earned top grades on the state tests in math and reading, and established a tutoring program to help other students do the same. He took college-level classes, too.
Last month, Estanley became the first Edison Senior High School student to win a prestigious Silver Knight Award in nearly two decades. And last week, he graduated with honors.
``He comes from such a difficult background and he's experienced so many different things in his life,'' said Edison Principal Pablo Ortiz. ``Yet, he keeps it in perspective that he's needed to change the lives of the people around him.''
Books were always important to Estanley. His mother, who could not read, supported the family by selling books in front a school in Léogane, a coastal city west of Port-au-Prince. She died of a stroke when Estanley was 6. The boy went to live with his aging grandmother.
As a young child, Estanley was at the top of his class at St. Croix Episcopal School.
But when his grandmother suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed, he needed to make money. Estanley rented a sewing machine and began training to become a tailor.
A year later, a phone call changed his life.
The boy's estranged father, who had been granted legal residency in the United States, called on him to come to Miami.
His grandmother had other plans.
``She wanted me to go,'' Estanley said. ``She told me to make something of myself.''
Those words pushed Estanley to excel at Miami Edison.
In school, Estanley stayed away from students who spoke only Creole, opting instead to practice his English with other teenagers. He made it a point to think in English.
``In Haiti, I was at the top of my class,'' Estanley said. ``I knew I had to learn English to be at the top of my class at Edison.''
He always asked for more work, his teachers said.
A year later, Estanley earned the highest score possible on the state exam in math. And he was one of only a handful of sophomores at Edison to earn a passing grade in reading.
The following year, Estanley asked to be taken out of the ESOL program -- he wanted to be in English-only classes. He started writing for the school newspaper and was elected president of the junior class.