Like many other high school seniors, Marquis Barnett is not sure what the future holds for him. But it is his past, and his ability to overcome it, that makes the high school basketball star unique.
According to The New York Times, Barnett has lived in four homeless shelters, with his mother and two younger siblings, just in the last two years.
"This is not the right way to be living," Barnett said after racing back to the apartment one recent night to make curfew. "But I guess it is just another hurdle in our lives."
Barnett is no stranger to hurdles. He has witnessed and protected his mother from domestic abuse, which forced the family to flee to a shelter over three hours away from Barnett's school. He continued to commute to school, taking long train rides, until he was able to transfer to a closer school, Cardozo, just before his junior year.
The NY Daily News reported that Barnett also dealt with the death of his 11 year-old half brother last February, an autistic boy who set fire to the apartment he and his grandmother lived in while she was at a nearby deli. When his grandmother was subsequently charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child in relation to the death of the boy, Barnett stood by her.
His Cardozo High School basketball coach, Ron Naclerio, told The Daily News about the struggles Barnett was forced to face.
"I really hope he gets a break," Naclerio said. "He's like the father of the house. He's worried about his mom. He's just a kid."
Naclerio, who has been his basketball coach at Cardozo High School basketball coach for the past two seasons, told The Times that he believes in the boy's ability -- and has even helped him financially to make sure he lives up to his potential.
"Once he got on the court, I thought he had bad hands because he kept dropping a lot of passes," Naclerio said. "Then I noticed he was squinting. The kid couldn't see. He was too embarrassed to tell me because his family couldn't afford eyeglasses, so I bought him contact lenses."
Naclerio isn't the only member of Cardozo staff who has lent a hand. Social studies teacher Nina Tricarico has been preparing school-day meals for Barnett for the past two years.
According to The Times:
"What does it really take to feed one more beautiful boy?" Tricarico said. "So I threw another pound of meatballs and sausage in the sauce. What's the big deal?"
With their help, Barnett has continued developing his skills as a basketball player and has earned good grades.
"I can be the first person in my family to graduate from college," he says.
This dreams looks like it will soon be a reality. Several division 1 schools, including Arkansas, Kentucky and Florida have shown interest in recruiting him. Barnett wants to remain close, however, so he can continue to be a source of strength for his family.