About a year and a half ago, Alexandre Antanaitis moved from Brazil to the United States with his family. They settled in south Florida and he enrolled in South Broward High School. As his teachers describe it, it was the school’s computer science program that gave him direction in a “literal foreign land.” Not only did he find a path for himself, but in that short time he became a leader in the computer science and robotics programs there.
Alex shares his story in his own words below. As his English skills are still developing, his computer science teacher, Justin Feller, paired him up with an English student to help him write this piece.
Thanks to those at South Broward High School, code.org, and @BrowardSTEM for connecting me to Alex. #BrowardCodes
Alexandre Antanaitis, Student at South Broward High
Ever since I was a young child, I’ve had two loves: basketball and video games. They have been like two forces in my life, competing with each other for my time and attention, and shaping the person I am today. But it wasn’t until I was given opportunities to learn computer science and programing in high school that things really became clear for me.
From the moment that I got my first video game console back in 2007, I was all into playing games. Playing influenced me to dream that I could create the “perfect game” in which I could add my own thoughts and ideas. When I turned eight I stopped caring much about anything. Eventually, I left this dream behind in the deepest depth of my mind.
But by the time I entered middle school back in my home country of Brazil, I made friends that revived my childhood dream of creating games. As I began to interact and socialize more with my newfound friends, my aspirations began to grow. I also came across videos that showed and taught me the basics of coding. However, I faced many obstacles because of the lack of opportunities in my hometown as there was no classes or courses that I could afford, and there was no one that could lead me through that path. I never really had any one that motivated and push me to strive for a career in this industry. I believed that I still didn’t quite have the capacity to learn. Those challenges pushed back my dream to program video games, and in its place, grew a new dream of playing basketball in the NBA.
I began to play basketball at my local high school. Later, my family was given the opportunity to seek a better life in the United States. Through this move, I began to only focus on my dream of improving my skill in basketball, eventually forgetting about my interest in game design. However, without me noticing, my old dream of pursuing game development began to grow alongside with my basketball dream. In fact, it eventually surpassed my dream of basketball.
When I enrolled in the American high school system, I was placed in a game simulation course and for that I am forever grateful. As the school year began at South Broward High School in Hollywood, Florida, I saw countless opportunities that prepared me for a professional career in game design. I began to place all my attention on this particular course and discovered that game design has always been my passion. I saw that I had an opportunity to seek my childhood dream as I discovered that my opportunities had not progressed in basketball. My true dream from when I was a child was finally within reach as my passion skyrocketed.
At a certain point, I had to choose a path to follow, either basketball which everyone expected me to pursue or game simulation which I now believed that I could succeed in. Eventually, I began to surround myself with people that encouraged me with the work that I choose to pursue. I choose the path that completely turned my life in a new direction; a path that was new and unfamiliar. Reflecting back, this decision was probably the hardest one I had ever taken in my whole life. Although this decision led me to give up on basketball, I do not regret my action. It is the reason I am the person that I am right now. I have always faced many challenges throughout my life; however, I have always managed to lift my head up and continue to do what I feel I do best, following my true desires.