Daniel Lazzatti's "home" may be in Orlando — but it sure isn't Disney World.
"Originally I think this was a tool shed, but I like to call it the pool house," says Dan.
The 18-year-old is an optimistic, pool-half-full kind of guy. He lives, at least partially, on expired food he gets from a local carry-out. He washes his clothes and showers at a nearby house, so most people who meet him don't even know he's homeless — and has been for two years.
"That's the house that we used to live in," he says, looking at pictures of his old house. "I still miss that place."
At one time Dan had a pretty normal life. But after his folks divorced — his mom ran off and his dad, who got custody, lost the house and turned into a crack addict — the then-16-year-old sophomore was left wanting nothing to do with foster care and basically fending for himself.
Most kids would have been ruined. But there was something about this boy …
"If you stay focused, if you really want that thing, you'll do anything in your power to make that happen," Dan says. And what was that thing? "I wanted my education."
So using a bike he found in a dumpster — a little kid's bike, with no brakes — Dan continued to get himself up every morning and haul his butt to school.
For the last two years he's had near-perfect attendance at Edgewater High School. But his counselor, Cheryl Romaine, says that's not even the most impressive part of his story. She says Daniel has a pretty serious learning disability.
Donations may be sent to the high school at Edgewater Foundation, c/o Daniel Lazzatti, 3100 Edgewater Drive, Orlando, FL, 32804.
"He had to go to summer school and night school to make up some of those credits. So he had to work twice as hard as any other kid," she says.
Sometimes, literally twice as hard. Geometry teacher Don Bennett says Dan used to sit in his class twice each day just to make sure he understood the material.
"Almost every day he stayed," Bennett says.
So, given the effort he put in, you can understand why Daniel broke out the feather duster earlier this week to prepare a place for one of this year's most well-deserved high school diplomas.
"Once my name was called, I was like 'I finally did it,'" he says.
Dan graduated with a 3.7 GPA, and is now off to college ... on a scholarship. He wants to study computers. As for a place to live, Hartman reports that Dan already has a few offers and could be in a new place by next week.