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DeBakey HS senior shows what true dedication looks like

2014 May 22
by HISD Communications

In this week’s I Am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and other team members, Class of 2014 member Edgar Avina talks about why he stayed at the DeBakey High School for Health Professions, even after losing interest in medicine; how he earned the nickname of “Curious George”; and what he hopes to accomplish professionally.

You’re zoned to attend Reagan High School, but instead, you chose to enroll at the DeBakey High School for Health Professions, even though it means a 7-mile, 30-minute bike ride twice a day in all kinds of weather, simply because the bus doesn’t arrive early enough for you to get to your first class on time. Why not just stay at Reagan?

Edgar Avina

Edgar Avina

Originally, DeBakey aligned perfectly with my goals: I wanted to become a cardiovascular surgeon, and what better launching pad than a high school dedicated to health professions? However, I soon came to realize that I am an unfixable klutz, and I would be a horrible surgeon. Although my interest in medicine has long since waned, I stayed at DeBakey for one reason: the people. The teachers are unbelievably open and friendly. The student body is a kaleidoscope of colors and cultures. DeBakey is a microcosm of the world, and I absolutely love it.

One of the things I’ve heard emphasized about you is how much time you spend on your bike getting to and from things that are far away. What is it that drives you to get involved in activities that require so much travel when you don’t have a car? And has any distance ever been “too far” for you to go? And how many miles would you say you’ve logged over your high school career?

Two things impel me to pedal so long. First of all—and I know it sounds idiotic— but I eat a lot. I estimate about 3,000 calories a day, with a diet chock full of starches and carbohydrates: lots of bread, simple pasta, and corn flakes. I need some way to burn off all that energy, and what better way than to pedal and clear my mind? Plus, I know that I have to have bucket-loads of grit if I am to one day achieve my goals. Biking is just a reflection of my determination to succeed. I am incredibly stubborn and I want to make a positive imprint in the societal fabric. Long distances are not going to dissuade me.

I have never thought that a distance is too long. The longest one-way distance I have ever traveled for academic purposes was around 12 miles; the most I have ever biked in a single day is 60. I would guess I have pedaled around 4,000 miles over the past four years. I logged about 65 miles per week my junior year, and about 30 miles per week my senior year.

I understand your interest has now turned to urban planning and politics. Why is that?

I have always been interested in buildings, bridges, and cities. When we were in New York City last summer on our Ivy League tour, I was fascinated by the subway. I had read all about it and couldn’t wait to see it. My legs had a mind of their own, and before I knew it, I was on my way, leaving the group behind. They started calling me “Curious George” because my curiosity was always getting me in trouble.

I’m also concerned about urban inequality. After traveling to many of America’s cities (thanks to free college trips), I have come to realize that the inequality is downright appalling. Ramshackle row houses stand next to glittering skyscrapers, and people with no car or even a bicycle to their name live near those with two or three luxury automobiles. I want to get involved in helping unshackle urban neighborhoods from the hard grip of poverty, idealistic as that may sound.

You’ve been determined to attend Yale University ever since you first joined the EMERGE program last year, and now I hear you’ve been offered a full scholarship there. Other than the obvious attraction of the full scholarship, why Yale?

For one thing, it is really close to New York City, which I dream of exploring. And the students who escorted us around campus were really upbeat, so I could picture myself there, absorbing the bubbly vibe. What clinched it was what I consider a celestial sign. The weather was cloudy and rainy most of the time (during our tour), but the day we went to Yale, the sky was crystal clear and the temperature was perfect.

I understand you’ve also been working part-time while carrying a full load of Advanced Placement classes. How do you get by on so little sleep?

Actually, I only worked during my junior year. I have come to realize that I simply do not have the time to juggle so many different assignments and responsibilities. There are a lot of kids in the school’s top ten who go to sleep at 10 or 11, but it’s a little harder for me. I am usually up until midnight doing homework. When it gets really hard, I resort to something I invented. It’s called textbook bashing. When I just can’t get something, I pick up the book and slam it into my head and hope something sticks. Of course, this is all figurative; I do not actually subject my brain to blunt force trauma.

Tell me something about yourself that would surprise people if they knew it.

I once drove an Aston Martin, as in the James Bond-type Aston Martin. I was a janitor at Star Motorcars during the summer of 2012. I was working at the car wash, and I got to drive it. Afterwards, I cleaned the rims.

If you know a graduate, student, employee, or other member of Team HISD who should be featured here, please email us at
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