This guest post is by Marcus Lo, a young man on the autism spectrum who was accepted into the University of Southern California. Marcus is applying for the Spring 2021 Making a Difference Autism Scholarship via the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference started by me, Kerry Magro. I was nonverbal till 2.5 and diagnosed with autism at 4 and you can read more about my organization here.

I hope you can support my nonprofit like I’m trying to support these students with scholarship aid for college. Learn more on how you can help our cause with a small donation (just asking for $3 today, equal to your daily cup of coffee) here.

When people look at me, they see an unusually tall Asian guy who is always smiling and upbeat, always joking. Someone who must not have a care in the world. Someone, of course, who is incredibly handsome. And they never suspect that I might be a survivor of child abuse or an orphan. Coming back from these early difficulties in my life has been a monumental struggle; however, I can say I’ve gained a lot of insight and truly become a stronger person in the process.

Although the memory of my mom dying from cancer when I was four is terrible, the fact is that my life had already been excruciating. I was diagnosed with autism and ADHD after going through many assessments.

During my sophomore year I temporarily faced homelessness and found myself working several part-time jobs to make a living. My academic and social situation took a severe nosedive due to the severe depression and internal struggles I was facing. I would often avoid socializing with people because I did not want to be transparent with my life. Living life as an orphan had been trialing for me as I lacked the proper guidance to cope with my challenges. I had little to no incentives to succeed in life.

With all these challenges, one might expect that I’d roll over and let them crush me; however, my life changed when I received an opportunity from my pastor to mentor orphans in China. I was stationed in Zhengzhou, where I educated young orphans in physical education. Throughout this experience, I counseled afflicted children and listened to their stories. A girl named Jenny told me how she had been orphaned as an infant in the back of an alley. The soft-hearted girl said that she always wondered where her parents were and why they abandoned her which caused her despair until she realized what it meant to have a real family. Jenny cleaved to her friends in her orphanage and considered them her real family. She showed me how much people could support each other, how there was light beyond the dark. At that point, I realized I wanted to help children like me succeed.

When I returned to high school, my new drive helped me graduate with over a 4.0 weighted GPA and community service award. Upon studying at the University of Southern California, I made an effort to network with college students despite COVID-19. In my activities, I graduated to leadership positions in my university’s Asian American organizations and social entrepreneurship association, where I made a real effort to mentor my peers in nurturing their potential growth. I also guest spoke at over five local high schools to share my life story in hopes that I could inspire people.

To expand on my redemption, I started a non-profit organization called Krik Krak Computer Project to provide Haitian children with digital literacy and laptops. I chose Haiti because the technology was not freely available to the citizens nor the children which made innovation hard for the nation. This also meant that educational software and online education were foreign to the school systems. I was able to receive a large amount of funding and assistance from Cisco, ASU, SolarSPELL, and various charitable organizations. After receiving appropriate funding, I developed a team of software engineers and educators to help me create the program necessary to teach Haitian children how to use computers and the internet. Educational accommodations were also made available for children with special needs. Through my work as CEO and founder, I became a reputable advocate for equal and quality public education through the means of providing virtual education.

When I considered business school, I initially intended to pursue a career in investment banking due to its reputation for financial stability; however, I realized social entrepreneurship is my calling as I found a passion in helping children like me succeed in academics. My current ambition for the future is to bring online education to underprivileged communities around the world for children with or without special needs. Educating them on personal finance and life-changing skills are important to me because I believe students like me should have an opportunity to be successful no matter our circumstances. I have prepared to meet these goals and challenges by working with various individuals and non-profit organizations to fulfill a common goal in promoting public education. I spent years struggling with my learning disabilities, so I want to ensure that other children do not face the same struggles in their bright future.

What my years of suffering taught me was not just how to value myself beyond what my parents did and to work to reach my dreams, but also how to empathize with others who face their own life struggles. Instead of letting my background crush me, I learned from it. So the happy, smiling Asian guy people encounter isn’t acting upbeat because he doesn’t have a care in the world; he’s smiling because he isn’t letting the odds beat him.

Follow my journey on Facebook, my Facebook Fan Page, & Instagram!

My name is Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum that started the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference in 2011 to help students with autism receive scholarship aid to pursue a post-secondary education. Help support me so I can continue to help students with autism go to college by making a tax-deductible donation to our nonprofit here.