High school years are tough enough, but for teens forced to also face the harsh realities of life, it can feel impossible. Problems at home will invariably lead to suffering in other areas of the teen’s life as well.
Carlos Gonzalez of Maine was having trouble in the classroom and on the basketball court. He was talented, intelligent, and committed, but his home life made it difficult for him to succeed.
Mike MacKinnon, his basketball coach, noticed Gonzalez was having some challenges.
Gonzalez, who towers above most at 6 feet 7 inches tall, didn’t have a way of getting to practice. The more Mike MacKinnon and his wife Julie learned about his situation, the more they felt the need to intervene.
“He needed a place to stay for a couple of days,” Julie said to Today.
Only a high school student, Gonzalez was out on the street fending for himself without a parental guardian. As ambitious as he was, school and basketball took a backseat to the daily fight for survival.
“He had been evicted from his apartment,” Mike said to Today. “He really didn’t have any other place to go, so it was just an easy answer for us to just say, ‘Ok, well, you can stay here.'”
Initially, Gonzalez was only going to stay for a few days. But days turned to months, and eventually the MacKinnons asked if he’d be interested in staying for good.
The family had three kids already when they became Gonzalez’s legal guardians.
Gonzalez fit like a missing puzzle piece in the MacKinnon family. While his siblings consider him a brother, Julie was teary-eyed saying he was “one of her babies.”
“He didn’t hesitate with us, and we didn’t hesitate with him. It was like he was the missing part in our family,” Julie said.
With a more stable home environment, Gonzalez began to flourish. He played basketball alongside his new brother, Zach, and his grades steadily improved.
“I didn’t have to worry about things like food, paying for school, a lot of things kids where I’m from had to worry about,” Gonzalez said to Today.
Gonzalez graduated high school and was admitted to Thomas College along with Zach. There he set records on the basketball court. In addition to scoring more than 1,000 points, he garnered numerous conference and statewide accolades.
“Nobody realized he was my brother until I had to tell them,” Zach said to Central Maine. “I had to tell some guys from classes. They texted and said ‘Wow, what a cool story.'”
Gonzalez will soon be graduating college with a degree in business management.
For the last five years, the MacKinnons supported Gonzalez, accepting him as one of their own. Close to earning a college diploma, he is already making plans for the future.
“It was very emotional for all of us,” Mike said to Central Maine. “We’ve lived this for the last five years, so it wasn’t a new story for us.”
Gonzalez intends to put his degree to work in the family business, Beach Dreams Resort, which manages 230 vacation cottages. None of it would have been possible if he hadn’t been given the opportunity to show what he was capable of.
“I think I’m very fortunate. I’m in a position not many people get,” Gonzalez said to Central Maine.