Osmany Corteguera was 11 years old when he arrived in South Florida from Cuba. He didn't know any English, his family was so poor they had never owned a car and he didn't even know what a university was.
Just five years later, the boy who ended up settling with his family in the working-class city of Hialeah, Florida, an immigrant stronghold near Miami, is heading to one of the most elite colleges in the country – with an academic record and SAT score that blows away just about any prep school student and those who spent thousands of dollars to boost college their entrance exam scores.
“Internet access is something that is so ubiquitous here in the United States. But living without it, looking at only what the government wants you to look at brainwashes you and makes you less educated."
Corteguera, now 17, is graduating from Hialeah High with a 6.47 weighted grade point average and a near perfect score on the Stanford Achievement Test: a 2230 out of 2400. He applied to 12 universities – including Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia – and was accepted to all of them.
The Cuban genius, who wants to study computer science, ended up choosing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and won a full scholarship that will pay his full ride at the university. He told Fox News Latino that because he never had Internet access when he lived in Cuba, he wants to work on making the Internet widely available in countries with repressive regimes.
"I think I would use computer science to help open up the Internet in Cuba, China, North Korea, and Russia,” he told FNL. “Internet access is something that is so ubiquitous here in the United States. But living without it, looking at only what the government wants you to look at brainwashes you and makes you less educated."
Corteguera says he owes his success to his parents and two elementary school teachers in Cuba. But the education system is becoming so bad in Cuba, he said, that high school students are being placed in elementary schools as teachers.
"I got lucky that I had a teacher who had an education degree," he explained. "The people are intelligent, but there’s no way with that system that you can get anywhere.”
Corteguera was born in San José de las Lajas, located about 40 minutes outside of Havana. Cortaguera's uncle navigated the sea of Cuban bureaucracy and managed to get the boy and his parents to Hialeah. Cubans who set foot on American soil are automatically given the opportunity to qualify for legal permanent resident status.
Before arriving here, Corteguera spent his time playing marbles and flying kites. Once in the U.S., he learned how to play computer games, like the fantasy game Runescape, in an effort to fit in.
Alina Grandal, one of Corteguera’s college advisors at Hialeah High School, said she believes what Corteguera has accomplished is nothing short of amazing.
"There's a lot of people that may think it's not a big deal, but I myself know how difficult it is," Grandal said. "I came from Cuba when I was 14 years old. I know how hard it is to adapt, you're kind of like an outcast."
Corteguera only received one “B” since middle school, but he said that “low grade,” in physical education, wasn’t entirely his fault.
"We had a group activity and someone dropped the ball," he said.
Corteguera now begins his journey to college. He said he had a tough time deciding which college he would attend but ended up heeding his instincts.
"I had a gut feeling for MIT," Corteguera said. "I liked the people there and the culture. They had the best computer science in the country."
Corteguera doesn't have a foolproof recipe for success. And, while he is driven and focused and obviously a genius, he said there is one thing that his helped him get high scores and do well in school.
"People always overlook a good night sleep," he explained. "You need to be rested. When you’re rested it feels like the hand of the God comes and gives you answers whenever you don’t know anything."
Fabiola Salazar contributed to this report.