HAYWARD — Sebastian Flores has the world at his feet. The 18-year-old Hayward High School valedictorian has been accepted into Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Northwestern, UCLA and UC Berkeley.
On top of that, he has been awarded a highly competitive Ron Brown Scholarship that will pay the bills during his college career.
The morning after Flores got an e-mail informing him he had been accepted into Harvard, he went to talk to his Advanced Placement biology teacher, Dr. Charles Martin.
"I told him, 'That's a no-brainer. Go to Harvard,'"" Martin said.
Last week, Flores made up his mind. Harvard it is.
"I cannot sing his praises enough," Martin said of Flores. "I got to tell you, that's not true of all the students I have."
A retired UC Berkeley biology professor now in his second career as an AP biology teacher at Hayward High, Martin knows potential when he sees it.
He said Flores combines the academic ability that earned him a 4.13 grade point average with a sterling character.
"He's got a smile and a persona that are magical," Martin said. "He's just one of the most likable people. When you put those skills sets together, that's remarkable."
Flores credits his mother with much of his success at school.
As a boy, his mother took him to the library regularly, which developed his voracious appetite for books.
"We went through a phase when we put the television on a diet and made a point to develop other things," said his mother, Christina Flores.
In 1994, Christina Flores became a single parent while raising four boys and working as a custodian at the Hayward Project School, where three of her boys were students.
"It was great because I had a very intimate relationship with their teachers and their friends," she said. "I tried to stay out of their business, but I know it kept them in check."
She said Sebastian "has that hyper-focus. I called him my little scientist. He would always intensely observe whatever is going on and try to get to the bottom of it."
Raising four boys has had its challenges, she said, which she handled by "being firm and not letting them push me around — I'm the mom."
Her oldest son serves in the Marine Corps and has completed a deployment in Iraq. Her second oldest is a student at Arizona State, while her youngest is a student at San Lorenzo High School.
"Having had two leave before him, I already know how that feels," she said of Sebastian. "I don't like it when they leave, but I'm excited for him on his journey."
"We're all proud of him," said his father, Bernie Flores, a semiretired truck driver who lives in San Francisco. "I'm happy for him, but I'm kind of scared for him. He's such a good kid, but there are a lot of wolves out there in sheep's clothing. We support him and want him to be the best person he can be, whether he graduates from Harvard or not."
Sebastian said he takes inspiration from the election of President Barack Obama.
"Having the nation's first African-American president, it is a huge source of pride," he said. "It's finally happening. But it's not the end of anything. I think it's just the beginning."
Reach Jason Sweeney at 510-293-2469 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.