One California teen is doing everything he can to go to college without the help of rich parents and scams.

Damion Lester Jr. wants to be the first person in his family to go to college. The University of California, Los Angeles rejected him, but he has been admitted to the University of California, Davis and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and is expecting letters from other schools.

The 18-year-old, who is raising money to attend college on GoFundMe, believes his education will lead him to a better life.

“I know my job is to do well in school so I can have better options for myself,” Lester told The Los Angeles Times. “Not being on government assistance … being able to move up.”

Lester's grandparents raised him after legal issues resulted in his parents losing custody when he was a toddler. He lives in Vermont Vista, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area, but the teen’s circumstances don’t deter him from pursuing a better life.

“Just because of my race doesn’t mean I can’t achieve,” he said.

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Lester came a long way from struggling with a severe stutter and flunking out of the first grade. His grandmother enrolled him in a magnet school after a teacher’s recommendation, but he came up short. Lester’s grades began to improve once he realized he was behind his classmates. The high school senior has a 4.1 grade point average.

“With his grades, you can see everything is possible,” guidance counselor Marcy Zaldana said. “He’s an overachiever. He goes after opportunities. He knocks on doors and they open.”

Lester still faces challenges. His SAT score was low, and even though he probably qualifies for financial aid, it might not cover expenses like housing and food. Last November, life’s stressors caused a breakdown and Lester punched a wall so hard he broke his hand. He was later hospitalized after the injury caused a bone and blood infection. Lying in a hospital bed for a week gave Lester time to reflect.

“Things had to get worse before they got better,” he said. “I realized I have to stay strong.”

Despite his challenges, Lester is staying positive. He isn’t even bothered by the college admissions scandal. He believes karma will take care of Lori Laughlin and the other adults who were charged.

Lester makes money doing Twitch broadcasts and voice acting. He amassed over 4,700 followers who were willing to donate to his education. As of press time, his GoFundMe page has received $3,915 of his requested $10K goal.

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