When community college counselors told Seth Filo he’d never make it to Harvard, he wanted to prove them wrong.
“I went to my local community college to take classes in the summer because I wanted to go into computers,” Filo recalled. “I was talking to college advisers and they asked where I wanted to go to college. I said, ‘Harvard.’ They said I would never get there.
“It gave me a little bit of vengeance. It’s always been where I’ve wanted to go.”
An Estrella Foothills High School senior, Filo accomplished his dream: He’ll start Harvard in the fall.
“Being immediately cut down as a sixth grader, I wanted to do whatever it took to prove them wrong,” he said. “But I also didn’t think I had a chance. I’m just a regular kid from Arizona. I don’t have extremely affluent parents. I haven’t cured cancer. The odds were stacked against me. It’s been an absolute blessing.”
Filo received financial aid or a scholarship from Harvard and the Elks, for which he was a state finalist. Now, he is one of the national finalists for an Elks scholarship. He’s guaranteed $20,000, but he’ll interview in Chicago at the end of this month for a chance to win an additional $30,000 to $50,000 in scholarship money.
“We’re over the moon,” said his mother, Kelly. “He’s been driven since he was little. He’s always been motivated. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s paid off.”
His favorite subject at Estrella Foothills is political science. He looks up to John F. Kennedy and Mark Zuckerberg.
“For Mark Zuckerberg, I have a deep appreciation for the self-made man – people who didn’t have much growing up and had to make their own name,” he said.
He’s also a “huge history buff.” He traveled to Washington, D.C., with his mother on a college tour.
“It was one of the most surreal experiences,” he said. “It was the best trip of my life. History just flew through that city like electricity.”
Filo called his biggest achievement serving as president of the Future Business Leaders of America, a 250,000-member group.
“It’s based on public speaking, role playing and business situations,” he said. “I had the honor of being state president of Arizona. I made changes to our organization. Our social media presence grew tenfold.
“I’m also in theater, I play soccer, I’m in speech and debate. Outside of school, I’m a huge sports buff. I do a lot of sports research.”
A former Ohio resident, he admitted to being a Cleveland Browns fan.
“For a while, I wanted to be an NFL scout,” he said. “I’m really into all things football. Strangely, I’ve never been to an NFL game. I had the fortune of going to the Fiesta Bowl to see Penn State vs. Washington. So, I’m working my way up there to the NFL.”
Filo, who was only recently accepted to Harvard, said he thought he would be nervous to attend the Ivy League university.
“Everybody there is extremely talented and smart,” he said. “I thought it would be an intimidating environment, but I want to spend my life helping others. I want to go to Boston and start my career improving communities. I want to make a change.”
Later, he plans to pursue a political career.
“I want to make life quantifiably better for American families,” he said. “I’d love to reform the health care system. It hit my family particularly hard, with the rising premium rates. I’d like everyone to have health insurance, if they would like it.”