Brian Alvarez-Luna’s prom celebration last Wednesday night at Watermill Caterers in Smithtown was especially well-earned.
The 18-year-old Comsewogue High School senior lives in his own apartment and works multiple jobs while his family lives thousands of miles away.
Alvarez-Luna's mom and sister moved to Mexico seven months ago -- joining his father and brother who were already living there -- and Alvarez-Luna decided to stay in the United States to further his education.
"When I was a kid we moved around a lot," said Alvarez-Luna, who works at a Port Jefferson restaurant and also does babysitting and construction to pay bills. "I decided not to go to Mexico so I could attend college. I wanted to stay in one place so I can become the person that I was meant to be."
Alvarez-Luna was born in Chicago and lived in various states. He and his family lived in Mexico for a few years before moving to Long Island.
"The plan was that we would all go back to Mexico, but I could not," he said, noting that his mom had to move back due to medical reasons. "My mother worries about me, but she is proud that I am independent and living a stable life."
"Brian is a man who puts his life in perspective," said Comsewogue principal Joe Coniglione. "To wake up every day to go to school, then go to work and maintain good grades is amazing."
He received his diploma during the commencement ceremony last Thursday, but unfortunately his family didn’t get to see him walk across the stage.
"But I know they are proud of me," he said at the prom.
Alvarez-Luna plans to attend Suffolk Community College to study psychology, then transfer to Stony Brook University.
"My dream is to become a neuropsychologist," Alvarez-Luna said.
His message for other young people on their own?
"There will always be someone who will come into your life to support you," he said. "Just keep your eyes on the prize."