When he was a freshman, fire destroyed Austin’s home. Despite this, he continued to contribute to various communities, including his school, Uncommon Charter High School in Brooklyn. As a sophomore, he decided to create the school’s Black Student Union, which, he wrote “would focus on community service and giving back to the needy.” Covid and a year of remote learning during his junior year slowed the process, but finally he enlisted school leaders in setting up a program that helps the homeless get food and clothing. “My school never had a community service club before,” he wrote. “What’s meaningful is not what I lost in the fire, but instead what I am leaving behind to help others.”

Austin will also be leaving behind an impressive school record, including outstanding grades on nine AP courses, and the admiration of his teachers. During a global pandemic and a fully remote school year, wrote one of his AP teachers, “Nothing stopped Austin from being perhaps the most exceptional leader I have had the pleasure of teaching over 14 years in education, while consistently managing a myriad of curricular and extracurricular responsibilities.” His college counselor, made similar observations, commenting on Austin’s research, sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, that uses artificial intelligence and a network of cameras to track the interaction of coyotes with human communities. And on the school yearbook. “this is my third year at the school,” the counselor wrote, “and this is the first I’ve heard of any yearbook. It’s another Austin creation.”

Looking back to the fire, Austin wrote, “Eventually, I realized that hardships end up shaping you as a person more than anything else.” Looking forward to a future that might include opening a community medical clinic, he said, “I want to be the best I can be."

A teacher that has made a difference in Austin's life is Ms. Tania—a mentor at the Boys & Girls Club. She constantly encouraged him to engage in more programs and activities that built on his skills, and helped him gain new experiences.

Many thanks to Perry Pazer for supporting Austin through his college journey.