The Ivy League set its sights on the First Coast, searching for exceptional students. A Lee High School tenth grader caught their attention.

Alan McCullough has been selected to be a Youth Advisor for Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.

His story of overcoming adversity and drive to succeed helped him capture the prestigious position.

"Throughout my entire life, I've dealt with adversity," McCullough read from an essay he submitted to Harvard. "At three-years-old, I witnessed the death of my mother."

McCullough details a grim past, void of much promise.

"I was stuck deep in this hole of desperation and it was impossible to crawl out of," McCullough recalls.

Upon his mother's death, McCullough moved around a lot.

"I saw myself going down the wrong path, following in the footsteps of my peers," he adds.

The charming teen with an infectious smile, later moved in with an aunt who he says was a positive influence on him, teaching him to lean on his faith in God. However, they struggled financially.

"The struggle of everyday trying to find stuff to eat. It was kind of hard getting by," Mccullough says.

Yet he found a way. It was in his leadership class at school, his teacher, Amy Donofrio, and classmates, McCullough calls his brothers, are changing the game.

"It's a great atmosphere every time I come in here," McCullough says.

Your environment can make all the difference and exposure to something greater, can change lives.

That's why the principal, Scott Schneider, nominated McCullough for the position.

"Just because I know that he's dynamic and I know his future is bright so I'm definitely very proud of Alan and I hope he knows that by now for sure," Principal Schneider says.

McCullough will serve as a Harvard youth advisor for one year. He will play an integral role in helping future educators understand the challenges today's youth face at school and at home.

According to the Harvard's website, youth advisors will develop leadership, organization, and other career-related skills.

"Donofrio always telling me my future is bright and I believe that and she believes that, so, I'm trying to strive for excellence," McCullough says.