Tasreeq Ferreira from Delft said he was living proof that your background does not determine your future.
He recalled spending long hours with his books as the sound of gunfire echoed through the night.
Ferreira, 24, graduated from university with a law degree.
The youngster who has set his heart on changing the narrative for youngsters on the Cape Flats said it was not an easy journey.
“I’ve failed, I saw people die, I’ve lost friends along the way and I was scared. But what I didn’t do was give up,” he said.
“There were times we struggled to make ends meet. You go and ask the neighbour for a bit of sugar.
“You can so easily fall victim to the elements around you.
“But I knew what I wanted at the end of the day... make a positive contribution, so I pushed through.”
Ferreira said he failed Grade 8 at Simunye High School.
“I failed because I wanted to (be) cool, be like the older guys, I failed because I wanted to fit in.
Then Ferreira said he made up his mind to be the best that he could when he got to Grade 10.
“It was a realisation, I spoke to myself. From there I started landing up in the top 10 of achievers at schools.”
It wasn’t easy and he lost a good friend along the way.
“We had chosen a different path,” he explains.
“By Grade 12 I had a goal to complete my studies. I got accepted at the (UWC). I received three scholarships, I was also on the Dean’s Merit List thrice, a member of the Golden Key International Society, and served as the deputy chairperson of the Law Student Council.
“I received the summa cum laude pass, I was over the moon,” he said.
His sheer determination has landed him the opportunity to complete his articles at one of South Africa’s top law firm, Werksmans.
Ferreira, who is the second youngest of seven siblings and the first to graduate from university, said without prayer and the constant support from his parents, siblings and teachers, he wouldn’t be where he was now.
“I don’t think I would ever be able to repay these people for all that they have done for me, especially my parents,” he added.
“My teacher, Mr Kupido who selflessly offered his home for me to study when the area became way too dangerous. My community also saw the potential in me while I was studying at the library.”
Weekend Argus reached out to Sidwell Kupido, who praised his former star pupil for his achievements and hard work.
“Tasreeq was a handful when he came to the school. He did not have a good reputation, he was not the same guy we know today,” he said.
“He failed in Grade 8 but now we all know that it had to happen so that he could unlock his full potential.
“Tasreeq was one of those learners who you could immediately see potential in, just the way he answered questions. I knew I needed to focus on him, I challenged him every opportunity I got.
“In matric, he was one of the learners who passed my subject with a distinction.”
Kupido recalls the times when Ferreira studied at his home.
“Things were rough in the area, at home, and now that same boy who sat and studied in my home, is the first of his families generation to go to study and to top it off pass with a summa cum laude in LLB,” he said.
Ferreira is doing his internship at the Equal Education Law Centre and said he could not wait to see what the future has in store for him.