Cameron Erskin views each critic’s cry of “you can’t” as a challenge.

Determined to be the first in his family to graduate from college, the COM dual credit student has already earned 18 hours of college credit, a scholarship and a national platform to tell his story.

One of three teens chosen as spokesperson for the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens, Erskin will encourage students to complete high school and will be featured on Taco Bell products at franchises across the nation.

Erskin recently returned from a California conference where he shared his story to a crowd of 1,600.

“Trials and tribulations kind of made me who I am. I’ve had so many people tell me ‘you can’t do this, you won’t do this,’” said Erskin. “I’ve had people who claim to support me tell me that, but now they are among the biggest fans.”

While always a good student, the Clear Springs High School senior found new determination after joining the Boys and Girls Club of America.

“The Boys and Girls Club really tries to push them. They do a lot of service projects,” said his mother, Meshell Vorsburgh. “I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

After joining the club, he volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, served food at St. Vincent’s Episcopal House in Galveston and mentored middle and high school students at Power Hour.

His Boys and Girls Club mentor of five years, Carol Freeman, discovered the Taco Bell Skills Challenge Scholarship and worked with him until 2 a.m. completing it.

He won that scholarship and eight months later received the call asking him to become a face of Taco Bell. He said yes.

Erskin credits his drive to pursue an education to two women in his life – Freeman and his mother.

“The importance of education was instilled in me since I was young.  I’ve always had big dreams. I knew that to achieve my dreams and goals I had to go to college,” he remembered. “My mom made me have a ‘dream board’ (of goals) when I was 10 or 11. She took it a step further. She made me do a six-month, one-year and five-year plan.”

At 18, Erskin is still armed with a plan – to graduate with a master’s degree in architecture in three years. Determined to reach this ambitious goal, he began taking dual credit classes at COM and plans to take a full load of courses year-round at Prairie View A&M University.

He’ll start June 8, the day after his graduation from Clear Springs High School, when he heads to Prairie View A&M University. He will take summer classes at the school’s Architectural Concepts Institute.

Now in a whirlwind of activity between finishing classes and graduation, he will travel to the national Taco Bell franchise conference to once again share his story.

“My mother has always taught me to ‘lift (others) as you climb,’” said Erskin. “I’m climbing and lifting as many people with me as I can.”