For Lorenzo Nuñez, the best things in life are most definitely free.
As a freshman, Nuñez planned and created what came to be known as the Something for Nothing Store, a marketplace in Valley Stream of gently used goods that he gave away to shoppers at no charge.
The idea sprang from the 2008 stock market crash and a subsequent conversation in which Nuñez and his guitar teacher pondered the concept of how different people would be if everything in life were free. Nuñez, a member of the Baha'i faith, asked his religious community to donate a vacant storefront.
With the help of friends and family, he built shelving, made a window display and created a website to explain the store's concept. He stocked it with items from his home or those donated from friends, and ran the store on weekends and after school.
After giving away 4,000 items, the store closed in 2010 to make space for a community program for children.
"The store existed not only just to fill a material need or to keep money in people's pockets during tough times, it uplifted people emotionally, and gave them hope that they would pull through this economic disaster," Nuñez, 18, wrote in his college essay.
Nuñez grew up in Locust Valley, where he was a three-sport athlete, playing basketball and lacrosse and running cross-country. He has won the scholar-athlete award every year since he was a freshman.
"I think the most notable thing about Lorenzo is that even though he has accomplished so much, he is so modest," guidance counselor Jillian Celli said.
One of the most meaningful relationships that Nuñez has is with his 16-year-old brother, Armando, who is autistic.
"I always feel like he is communicating with me," Nuñez said. "I fill in the words and he agrees with them. I kind of love it to hang out with him. As kids we were really separate most of the time, but now I know how to hang out with my brother -- it is a beautiful relationship."
Nuñez will graduate with an International Baccalaureate diploma and has been accepted to the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he plans to study mechanical engineering.
His favorite subjects are the sciences and social studies. Nuñez had an architecture internship a few summers ago and attended a pre-college program at Pratt Institute for architecture last summer. But he's not interested in building houses and skyscrapers.
"What I am really looking to do is, I want to go into the automotive industry," Nuñez said, adding that he would like to create a hybrid vehicle that gets energy from the wind. "I want to design and create a new generation of vehicles."