Now a junior at Cooper High School, He was raised by an aunt who was illiterate. And he'll be the first in his family to graduate from high school.
"I know that education has given me the power to have a better center of living than my parents or my grandparents had," He said.
He's working to do the same for school kids in Africa: He worked with the African Library Project and started a book drive called Project Montag, named after the main character in Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451."
The books will go to Kapirinkhonde Community Secondary School, which He describes as being in "one of the poorest communities in Malawi."
He already has collected about 800 books. They'll go to students in preschool through eighth grade.
"I was pleasantly surprised and really shows how much we as a school care about the welfare of other students even a thousand miles across the world," He said.
He also needs donations to help with shipping costs. At about 25 cents per book, it will cost around $250 to ship 1,000 books to Malawi. He plans to ship the books in June.
Victoria Yeomanson, an English teacher, said He's been an inspiration to other Cooper students.
"It's a wonderful thing to have students who are not thinking about themselves who are thinking about the world in general," Yeomanson said.
The drive ends Friday. Donations are accepted at Cooper, Camp Ernst Middle School and the main Boone County library in Burlington.
"This is the first year but we're definitely thinking about continuing it for a second year," he said.