Kyle Polanco lives to serve.
The Charlotte Post Foundation’s Top Senior’s time at Hough High School could have reflected that of a national educational system designed for boys of color to fail, but it didn’t.
“I’ve always wanted to be an example to other minorities, that they can do it too,” Polanco said. “I just wanted to inspire them to never let racism or prejudice ideals to deter them from achieving their goals and aspirations. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who believe that just because someone is non-white that they are automatically inferior. Minorities such as my peers and I are in an educational system that is not in our favor. That’s why it’s imperative that we all strive, especially myself, in our studies and not waver.”
Polanco’s 5.0 grade point average, which ranks in the top 2 percent of his class, illustrates a dedication to academics, but he also strives for balance. Whether he’s volunteering at Grace Covenant Church in Huntersville, planning a future in the medical field or envisioning life at UNC-Chapel Hill, Polanco’s quick to note he is still just a kid.
“You have to stay balanced, and not limit yourself to doing one thing,” Polanco said. “I’m just like an average kid. I like to spend time with my family and friends, along with playing sports—specifically basketball—but I remain focused, and make sacrifices along the way.”
Being a normal kid entails participating in varsity track and field, as well as envisioning changes in the ways underserved communities access healthcare. Polanco’s desire to spark that change drew him to UNC for its medical program, as well as its diverse student body—something he did not experience at Hough, particularly when it came to advanced placement classes.
“I see a future operating in the medical field, whether it be surgeon, etc.,” Polanco said. “I would do this for my purpose of fulfilling my passion of serving others, and sparking a change, especially in the underserved communities as well.”
Success in the next chapter of his academic career would lead to what Polanco describes as his “two-fold career vision.”
“I’ve always had a strong passion to serve others,” he said. “My career vision is two-fold: one being to provide excellent healthcare for marginalized populations, regardless of race, ethnicity, economics, gender or immigration status to name a few, and secondly, to create help with the improvement of global healthcare initiatives.”
Much of his inspiration comes from Martin Luther King Jr.
“Due to his strong beliefs and his vision, he was able to change the deeply rooted and institutionalized unequal practices that our nation was founded upon,” Polanco said. “Not only that, but he was an eloquent leader who placed the needs of the disenfranchised above his own. The simple fact that I attend a predominantly white school and am able to receive an exceptional education is a direct result of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ultimate sacrifice. I believe it to be a great honor to pick up the baton, and continue his legacy.”
Polanco also attributes a great deal of his success to his parents, Joy and Johnny Polanco. He is the middle child, with an older brother, Ari and a younger sister, Sky.
“I come from a diverse family,” Polanco said. “I am part black, Dominican and Asian. It’s a great heritage. My dad is Dominican, and my mom is both black and Asian.”
Polanco’s father’s influence in the technology industry led him to engage in extracurricular activities, including E2D (Eliminate the Digital Divide) where he offered tech support to local schools as well as the community. He is also a member of the National Technical Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, a mathematics honor society for high school and two-year college students who offer math tutoring to struggling students.
While Polanco has faced several challenges throughout his life where people made assumptions based on his appearance, he responded by pursuing excellence, and using his gifts to create a brighter future for those who follow him.
“I would tell others facing prejudice to never regret their roots, and to never limit their potential,” Polanco said. “There have been numerous instances where I felt I would be pigeonholed, but I wouldn’t let that stop me from doing what I do best. I’ve responded by excelling in my studies and academics so that it could pave a bright future, and it could prepare me for my pursuance in the medical field.”
|PHOTO | JEFF PALMER|
|Hough High School senior Kyle Polanco, The Charlotte Post Foundation’s 2018 Top Senior of the Year, earned a scholarship to UNC-Chapel Hill, where he plans to enroll in the fall.|