Once homeless, Bronx teen invited to State of the Union by the First Lady

Posted: 5:28 PM, Jan 19, 2015
Updated: 2015-01-20 06:37:16-05

(NEW YORK CITY) - One would be hard pressed to find someone more excited to be catching a flight on Martin Luther King Jr. Day than this Bronx teenager.

"I woke up and all I see is my phone lit," Anthony Mendez told PIX11 News. "I got a whole bunch of emails, like people I haven't spoken to in years. It's all like, 'Oh, congratulations.'"

The congrats, as expected, are well-deserved for the 19-year-old whose family was once left homeless after being evicted from the Patterson Houses in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.

Mendez's journey is also a historic one as it comes at the request of First Lady Michelle Obama.

It all happened via a simple phone call last week, according to Mendez.

"I usually don't pick up unknown numbers, but I picked it up and then she is like, 'Hi, this is Lisa Hyman with Washington D.C. We are calling to let you know if you want to be a guest with Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address,' and you know, of course you can't say no to that," Mendez said.

PIX 11 News caught up with Mendez at LaGuardia Airport Monday prior to his making a second trip to the nation's capital in less than a year.

During his last visit, he met the First Lady at a small round table focused on teens having to overcome incredible challenges to get ahead in high school.

"I come from a bad background. I struggle, everybody struggles, everybody wants to act like nobody has problems, but everybody struggles. It's just how you use those struggles and overcome them," Mendez said.

It hasn't been easy for the teen.

Aside from his family being homeless, his best friend Johnny Moore was gunned down on a basketball court in Mott Haven.  Moore's memory lives on to this day at center court as well as with his friend who remembers him fondly.

When asked if there is a friend who is not around that he is thinks about, Mendez quickly responded: "The only one I miss is Johnny Moore. I spoke to his mom yesterday, told her that I'm going to be mentioning his name a lot and she is proud that I am able to live on with his memory and use him for something positive."

As for what the future holds for Mendez, he's on a track scholarship at the University of Hartford with big blueprints designed for Washington D.C. down the road.

"Right now I'm getting into political science," he said. "I'll see where it takes me. Maybe I'll be the first Hispanic president, who knows?"