Success Story


Back to Success Stories
<< Return to Current Success Stories

Homeless High School Dropout Aims to be Doctor

Homeless High School Dropout Aims to be Doctor

Ignacio CallesAnti-social, rebel biker Ignacio Calles first rode onto the University of St. Thomas campus in 2012 sporting long hair and wearing his then-preferred torn jeans and boots.  The young man who stormed out of an abusive home at the age of 14, choosing to drop out of school and live as a teenage runaway for three years, had defied life’s odds through sheer will and a remarkable, natural intelligence.

Calles still gets around on his “beautiful, black” Honda CBR600. And he still wears his trademark leather jacket, but these days, underneath, is one of the “super bright-colored” neckties, which he will sport beneath his graduation gown in May.

Calles joins 298 undergraduates and 739 graduates at the University’s 64th Commencement Ceremony at Reliant Stadium on May 17.

With a 4.0 and bound for medical school in the fall, the 24-year old achiever recalls what he has overcome so far.

“When I turned 18, I moved in with some relatives,” Calles said. “Then I walked up and down every street downtown putting in applications. Jason’s Deli hired me as a delivery driver for minimum wage. It was a decent income for a dropout who had a place to live rent free.”

Eager and willing to work hard, he got up at 3:30 a.m. to catch the 4:30 a.m. bus and be at work by 6 a.m.

“I would work until they closed to make as much as possible,” Calles remembered.

Saving like a fiend, he bought a car after six months, enabling him to take a second job at Walmart. Along the way, he got an apartment, earned his GED, then added enrollment at Houston Community College to his busy schedule.

Ignacio CallesThe eyes-on-the-prize student said, “My rule was that I would do my homework as I got it and would not sleep before it was done. It paid off.”

As hard as he worked, Calles is quick to acknowledge the role that luck played. A friend he met at his restaurant job was hired at T-Mobile and helped pave the way to a better-paying position for Calles.

“It changed my life because I could go to school in the morning instead of at night, and it was a lot less tiring,” Calles said. “A lot of lucky things happened to me.”

Medical school is his target—and he has three to choose from: Baylor College of Medicine, New York University and Washington University. Slackers don’t get in. When the straight A student received his first B, he quit working in order to focus on studies.

“I lived off of my savings,” Calles explained. “I had planned for that.”  

What he could not plan for was the academic experience he would have at UST, including valuable relationships with professors.

“They are accessible and I can talk to them about anything whenever I want,” he said.

Grateful for everything in his life, including the generous financial aid he received from UST, Calles said he is a different person after studying at St. Thomas.

“UST is like a family,” Calles said. “Everyone was so welcoming and good to me. Honestly, I’ve become a nicer person here because of how friendly the environment is. You would not even recognize me as the same person.”