Some kids have all the luck. Elias Rosenfeld is not one of them. Luck is just not part of his formula for success. Instead, Rosenfeld uses self-reliance, hard work, and persistence to propel himself to the upper ranks of the senior class at Michael Krop High School.
“I’m just grateful and I’m proud of myself for the work I’ve done and that it was recognized,” Rosenfeld said, reacting to one of the biggest surprises of his young life.
Representatives from Nordstrom barged into his class and presented him with a $10,000 check, along with a brand-new MacBook laptop. Elias had just won one of 80 Nordstrom Scholarships. More than 6,000 students nationwide applied. Judging by the thunderous applause in the classroom, the kids knew they were seeing a special moment, especially because they know this young man’s story.
“I'm just shocked, I’m so grateful for the opportunity, $10,000 goes a long way,” Rosenfeld said.
Elias, his mom, and his sister moved to Miami from Venezuela. But not long after they settled in, Rosenfeld’s mom died of cancer. He was only 13, his sister was 15. Their mother’s death not only left them to nearly fend for themselves, the siblings were now classified as undocumented immigrants. The deck seemed stacked against Rosenfeld, but he excelled anyway.
“He’s my hero, I’ve been teaching for 20 years and I have never seen a student like this young man,” said activities director Michelle Russell. “To lose your mother at such a young age, coming into high school, to not know your father, to basically have to raise yourself along with your sibling, I can’t imagine that.”
Rosenfeld says his grandfather sends money from Venezuela to support him and his sister, and he also gets support from his neighborhood synagogue. But that doesn’t make up for the absence of parents to help with daily issues. Rosenfeld still managed to earn almost straight A’s in a schedule that has include 13 AP courses. He’s also a student government leader, he’s on the speech and debate team, and he volunteers with the Children’s Trust and the Homeless Trust.
“He’s overcome personal family issues, he has stood on his own, he has sought assistance whenever he could and on top of everything else, his generosity, you would think he might be selfish, what can people do for me, and in trying to find a way to better himself he’s bettered himself by trying to help everyone around him,” said Dr. Allison Harley, principal of Krop High.
Rosenfeld says President Obama’s executive order allowing undocumented kids such as him to stay in the country has been a life-saver. As for losing his mother, he doesn’t let the pain turn into self-pity. He uses his circumstance as motivation.
“It’s just persevering forward and having the mentality that you don’t want to be in the situation that you’re currently in,” Rosenfeld said.
Rosenfeld’s optimistic attitude and work ethic, his teachers say, will serve him well in college. Everyone at Krop High expects Rosenfeld’s success in high school to be a harbinger of better things to come at the next level.