WATCH | When he was 12, Jorge Campos and his family were living in hotels, even out of their van, after they lost their home. Now, the high school senior is getting ready to head to Harvard.
For Jorge Campos, June 2016 will mark his high school graduation but also the last time he had to commute 2.5 hours each way to get to and from school.
Campos has been making the journey from Palmdale, California, to his South Los Angeles school everyday for the past two years.
"I have to leave my house by 5:15," said Campos. "And then I'll drive with my father to North Hollywood. And then I'll catch a train. Then I'll get off and get a bus."
Jorge posted this Instagram video of the Los Angeles leg of his daily commute to school.
There's a method to the madness that's his commute. He doesn't do it because he's a fan of trains, buses and waking up at 4:30 a.m.
He does it because when his family had to move 70 miles away from L.A. after they lost their home, he preferred to stay with people he'd grown close to rather than start all over at a new school as a sophomore.
"At the end of two years, I was so deeply-rooted on campus," Campos told Circa. "I had made so many connections with staff [and] students that I couldn't start over."
When I met up with Jorge, we had to pause the interview for a bit. He was on the phone turning down a $100,000 scholarship because he'd rather it go to someone who could use it all. He only needed $5,000 to cover remaining tuition expenses.
Starting over is something Campos' family is all too familiar with. When Jorge was 12, his family "hit financial rock bottom." His dad lost his job and couldn't make ends meet for the family of six, eventually leading to them losing their home.
Instead of wallowing in his dire situation, Campos started learning everything he could about finance.
"I started getting familiar with banking structure and interest rates and things like that," he said.
Jorge scored a 1550 out of 1600 on the SAT and will be graduating from Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles on June 9, 2016.
It culminated with me taking over my parents' budget, talking with banks and applying for credit.
When I ask him if a 12-year-old negotiating loan payments with a bank over the phone at the kitchen table is the picture I'm supposed to be having in my head, he laughs and says, "Yes."
Jorge with his family at his eighth grade graduation. (Photo: Jorge Campos)
His financial savvy was enough for his family to climb out of poverty, move to Palmdale and buy a house. This meant he would be two hours away from his high school (on a good day), but that was fine with him.
His daily 4.5-hour commute has paid off. The 18-year-old is headed to Harvard University this fall, and what he plans to study is no coincidence.
"I want to study economics," he said. "It's a lot of work, but it's what's allowed me to [be] financially stable."