From troubled childhood to Rhodes Scholarship: How Caylin Moore learned how to 'dream big'

Caylin Moore discusses his memoir, "A Dream Too Big."

June 4, 2019, 3:46 PM

A 25-year-old who overcame a troubled childhood to become a Rhodes Scholar is sharing his story of perseverance.

Caylin Moore told "Good Morning America" that growing up in Compton, California, it was risky to have big dreams.

"Sometimes people see you as a threat because it means you won't become a gang member, so you're a threat to the gangs," Moore explained. "You may appear threatening to law enforcement. You may appear threatening to teachers that are apathetic and just push you through the system. So sometimes if you rise high, you will illustrate the stark realities of how difficult it is to do so.”

PHOTO: Caylin Moore
Caylin Moore, as a youngster, seen with a friend in school.
Courtesy Caylin Moore

In his new memoir, "A Dream Too Big," Moore said he was fueled to succeed by hunger, but he feasted on hope from two main sources: his faith in God and his mother.

"For my mom, she went through some of the most traumatic things that one could imagine and I inherited that idea of still being hopeful, even through the hardships."

Moore went on to graduate from Texas Christian University (TCU) and the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

“My story isn’t one of my own personal exceptionalism,” said Moore, adding it’s unrealistic to expect, if he had to do it all over, that the result would be the same.

PHOTO: Caylin Moore S.P.A.R.K.
Caylin Moore and some of his TCU teammates created an organization called S.P.A.R.K. (Strong Players Are Reaching Kids).
Courtesy Caylin Moore

In addition to his memoir, Moore and some of his TCU teammates have created an organization called S.P.A.R.K. (Strong Players Are Reaching Kids).

The founders of S.P.A.R.K. reach out to elementary school students and youth detention centers and share their stories.

"We will be a positive force in those kids' lives," Moore said. "We even got a grant for a couple thousand dollars to give to a teacher so she could purchase uniforms. We just wanted to use our platform in a positive way."

Moore said he never imagined being where he is today.

"It seemed incredibly unrealistic at times, given the environment that I come from, so it was hard to imagine something like this," he noted.

PHOTO: Caylin Moore reading to kids
Caylin Moore, seen here reading to kids, now has a book of his own.
Courtesy Caylin Moore

To children growing up in tough times, Moore's message is to "hold onto hope, even when it's difficult to do so."

"And for everyone else I would have the message that hopefully my book is something that emboldens you to think critically about the corrections we need to make in education and society so that children don't look at a dream as a dream that's too big for them to chase," he said.

Moore also encourages everyone to address educational and societal issues to help all kids succeed, from access to advanced placement courses to adequate learning materials.

“The kid is not the one that is to blame,” he said. “It’s us adults, we have to help them have no political power.”

Moore still has big dreams. This fall, he hopes to start pursuing a doctorate in urban sociology at Princeton, Yale, Brown, Stanford or UC Berkeley.

"A Dream Too Big" is out now.