Resilience, Hard Work and USC: Max's Story

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Max’s parents came to America as political refugees from the former Soviet Union.

He recalls that his mother and father always “stressed the significance of possessing a strong work ethic, being unconstrained in self-expression and the relentless pursuit of greatness.” In 1996, Max was born in Louisiana; the family relocated to San Diego, and eventually they moved into an apartment at BRIDGE’s Torrey del Mar, which they found welcoming as well as diverse.

When Max was around 12, his father was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. “My family and I were devastated and unsure what to do,” he says. “I had to accept the thought that my father could fight this and go in strong. But, after four years of battling cancer, my father passed away and it was the most difficult situation anyone could go through.”

Max says that the aftermath of his father's death led him to be certain about his passion for filmmaking and what he must do to excel professionally. “Being first generation, I want to take those opportunities that my parents did not have and use those to my full advantage to make them proud.”

His mother works as a Head Start family service advocate, and Max has taken on responsibility for helping her with bills. While pursuing an A.A. degree in film and TV production at Miramar College, Max juggled multiple jobs: Starbucks barista, freelance video editor, videography intern.

Max applied for and was stunned to receive a Stein Educational Assistance Program scholarship from BRIDGE, which helped him pay for cameras and supplies, transportation and video editing software. “That support really allowed me to flourish and grow with my work as I was struggling to find financial opportunities to fund my education.”

And then, in 2016, his dream came true: Max was accepted into the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he is earning a B.A. as a Cinema and Media Studies major with a potential double-major in Production; he will also be minoring in "Entertainment Industry" and possibly "Media & Social Change." Max, who counts Martin Scorsese, Ryan Murphy and James Wan among his filmmaker heroes, envisions his future self as a creative director in the entertainment industry, perhaps known for a unique artistic television series or on set making feature films.

What advice does Max have for young adults who face hard times, as he did? “If you’re in a position of turmoil, stress or a tough challenge, your first step is to evaluate what you can do now, in order to be successful,” he says. “Without identifying the issue, you will never make that leap past the first step.”

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