LAWRENCE — Joshua Maldonado doesn't have much. He's been living in a hotel for the last two years after his family was burned out of their house.
The teen rides a bicycle everywhere and has to do without such items as an iPod — devices most of his peers cannot live without.
But Maldonado has dreams of being an aeronautical engineer. Through perseverance and hard work, Maldonado has earned himself the top spot at Lawrence High School's Math, Science and Technology Academy and an early acceptance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
"MIT is the best school in the country and that's where I always wanted to go," Maldonado said. "I want the best education possible, which is something my family always emphasized."
Maldonado, 18, found himself dreaming of flight as a youngster. His father, Robert, would take him to Castle Island in South Boston to watch airplanes flying in and out of Logan International Airport. As a result, he began building model airplanes.
A fire took his home on June 13, 2008. To keep looters away, the Maldonado family set up a tent next to the house, which Maldonado said taught him about living without much.
He said his life in Lawrence has helped fuel his desire to attend MIT and to pursue a doctorate in aeronautical engineering.
"For me, education is a step for having a better life in the future. It will prepare me to do everything I like," Maldonado said.
To achieve that goal, Maldonado has taken on intensive extracurricular activities. Every summer, Maldonado participates in academic enrichment programs at Merrimack College and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. He enrolled in MIT's Saturday Engineering Enrichment and Discovery Academy, where he learned about mechanical, civil, aerospace, computer, electrical and synthetic biology engineering.
His work impressed the coordinator of the program.