Rosemond Deorleans' parents have always inspired him to dream big.
Now, the 17-year-old son of Haitian immigrants stands poised to fulfill the American Dream by attending one of the most prestigious universities in the country later this year.
In December, the Sussex Central High School senior learned he had been accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's School of Engineering in Cambridge, Mass., which is widely regarded as the top undergraduate engineering program in the county.
While the vast majority of his tuition will be paid through scholarships provided by MIT, Deorleans received an added boost last month when he became the only student in Delaware to earn a $20,000 scholarship from the national Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
"It's very exciting because I've wanted to be a civil engineer ever since I was in the ninth grade and had to write an essay about America's deteriorating infrastructure," the Georgetown resident explained. "I'm of Haitian descent and learning that a lot of the deaths caused by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti were actually caused by structural failure had a big impact on me. I want to do something to keep that from happening here, or anywhere else."
Rosemond's father, Gerold, said his son's acceptance to MIT is exactly the type of opportunity that drove him and his wife to leave Haiti for the United States in 1992.
"When we got engaged, we said we were not going to get married in Haiti," Gerold said in Creole, which was translated by his daughter Nadege, a 2011 Sussex Central grad now studying biology at Delaware State University. "We wanted come to America first, so our children could have a better education because in the United States if you have potential, it is possible to get an education and go beyond where you started."
A high school math teacher in Haiti, Gerold has spent the last 11 years working as a taxi driver in Philadelphia, while his wife, Rosette, works long hours hunched over a line at Perdue Farms.
"It was hard for us to find jobs while waiting the 10 years that are required to become permanent citizens, but we don't think about ourselves," Gerold said. "We're not making sacrifices for us, but for our child, and any sacrifice we can make so they can get a better opportunity is worth it."
While his parents provided the inspiration, Rosemond said his achievements did not come without a fair share of hard work, which has included enrollment in Upward Bound, a federally-funded program administered by Delaware Technical & Community College that provides tutoring, academic advisement, cultural enrichment and work-study opportunities to low-income, first-generation college bound students.
Rosemond has participated in Upward Bound every other Saturday during the past four school years, as well as six weeks each summer.
Page 2 of 2 - "I can't say enough about him," said Cheryl Miller, the program manager of Upward Bound. "He truly is a remarkable young man – honest, respectful and a true leader. The other students go to him for assistance and he's so humble and thoughtful. I know his father is very proud of him."
A captain of the Golden Knight's cross-country team who also helps mentor freshman students, Rosemond he would share his parents' advice with younger schoolmates looking to follow in his footsteps.
"Don't be afraid to dream big," he said. "A lot of people will say you can't do it, but I know you can, if you just focus on your school work and don't settle."
IRHS senior earns $5k Horatio Alger Scholarship
Fenwick Island resident Austin Roadarmel recently became the only Indian River School District student to earn a Horatio Alger State Scholarship.
The Indian River High School senior said he hopes to use the $5,000 scholarship to attend Boston College.
"I've applied to 10 other schools, but that's my first choice," he said. "I'd like to study biology and right now I'm leaning toward trying to become a physician."
The national and state-level Horatio Alger Scholarship Programs provide financial assistance to students who have exhibited integrity and perseverance in overcoming personal adversity, and who aspire to pursue higher education. Fifteen students in Delaware were awarded the state-level scholarship this year, including five in Sussex County.
Roadarmel, whose mother is a hair dresser and whose father has been unemployed for two years, said his application for the scholarship included an essay about the importance of not allowing himself to be affected by what others might perceive as a disadvantage.
"I don't want coming from a low-income family to be something I'm ashamed of," he said. "What's important in life is how you deal with it."
Indian River Principal Mark Steele said Roadarmel, a member of the Indian River swim team, all-state choir and founder of the school's debate team, is one of the high school's most outstanding students.
"His work ethic and character has enabled him to establish a reputation as being a student who will be a successful leader in our community, before and after he completes his college education," he said.