Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories profiling East Texas high school graduates.

Marcus Harry is an Advanced Placement student, a member of this year’s state champion Lobo football team and has tutored middle school students.

It might be hard to believe that Harry spent part of his high school career living in a hotel or sleeping in a car.

The new Longview High School graduate spent about two years without a stable home environment, he said. After his parents divorced, he spent some time with his mother, but then went back to live with his father and younger sister.

Most of his sophomore year was “normal,” he said. But after his father had a fight with his girlfriend, they left and checked into a hotel.

The stay extended into months.

“It didn’t take me long to tell (my father) was unemployed and we were just running on fumes in terms of money,” Harry said.

Once his junior year arrived, Harry said his family was in the same situation until a generous family helped them out.

“They gave us a place to stay for a little bit and helped my father acquire a new house,” Harry said. “That was a blessing.”

But once spring break hit, he said he started to notice appliances breaking and bills not getting paid.

“We wound up being homeless in this time period, me, my dad and my sister,” Harry said. “There was a period of time where I couldn’t go to school because we didn’t have nowhere to go, and we didn’t have any clothes to wash, so we slept in the car a few nights.”

Even sleeping in the car became impossible after it was impounded, Harry said.

The family eventually bounced from home to home, but after getting evicted from a house, he said he knew it was time to leave.

“Thank gosh my best friend Bailey, God bless that boy and his family, they were like, ‘If you need a place to stay, you can always stay here,’ ” Harry said. “I sort of like shrugged it off because they let me stay there some time over the summer. I had a lot of help from quite a few friends.”

Eventually, Harry moved in with Bailey Smith and his family his senior year, finally having a place to call home.

But Harry’s sister was still living in Dallas with their father and told Harry it wasn’t a good environment. He eventually found a family willing to take in his sister.

“I don’t know where (my father’s) at now; he’s somewhere over yonder, somewhere in Dallas, so that leads us up to now,” Harry said two days before his graduation.

Despite all of the moving, instability and lack of support system at home, Harry said he refused to be another number and worked hard to be a role model for his sister.

So he continued going to school and taking AP and International Baccalaureate classes and working hard on the football team as a starting tackle.

“It was my way out. I love football more than anything because playing here, what happens outside, what happens out there, what happens with the family does not impact anything that happens on the field,” Harry said. “There, I could just drop everything and play the sport. I didn’t have to worry about what was going to happen.”

Harry is a testament to what a student-athlete should be, said head football coach and Athletic Director John King.

King said despite everything that happening in his home life, Harry never made excuses.

“I was there trying to be in a supportive role because I knew he was going through some difficult times at home and wanted to provide the best assistance I could,” King said. “He’s just such a polite, respectful kid in a tough situation who needed a break.”

In the fall, Harry will start at Tyler Junior College, where he received a full scholarship to play football.

“He’s probably one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached,” King said. “It’s unbelievable the effort he gave with a smile on his face.”

While Harry is excited to play football in college, he is still passionate about being able to get a college education.

“I love school. I think school is amazing. It was a good option for me to get away from everything, and I’d rather be in school than be on the streets,” he said. “All my friends are here, teachers that care about me, it’s the best way out.”

Looking back, Harry said he knew dropping out of school was never an option, and he wants other students going through adversity to believe in themselves.

“Don’t lose faith in yourself, don’t lose faith in your future although a lot of things are happening and it’s bad. You can change your own fate; you determine your own future,” he said. “Don’t pull yourself down because of all the detrimental things that are happening to you. You just have to have hope and faith.”