SAN MATEO, Calif. (KTVU) - A standout student and an athlete at Serra High School in San Mateo is now a contestant on the popular Fox TV show "American Idol."
Reno Anoa'i is now juggling competing on the show and school.
He spoke with KTVU at his school Thursday.
The 16 year old is a familiar sight on campus , with a guitar in hand with his cousins by his side. They are also his teammates on the varsity football team.
Reno says his large family and music are his life. "It's all I do. It's my escape route. Every time I'm feeling down or out of it, music is my comfort zone that I can run to," said the 11th grader.
Last fall in San Francisco, he spent all day in line to audition for the judges.
On Thursday night, Reno's large extended family watched him perform on "Idol."
"It's just really important that he remembers who he is and where he comes from and he has a family that supports him no matter what," said Manufou Anoa'i, Reno's mother.
Reno tells us he hopes his journey on the show will help him make a better life for his family. He says his parents struggled to make ends meet.
"There would be nights where we didn't have dinner, lunch and even getting to the school Serra," said Reno.
The teen says he is able to attend Serra High, a private Catholic school, because of a financial scholarship. He has impressed teachers and coaches with his hard work and talent.
"Reno is a unique guy with a reservoir of love that I haven't seen in a lot of people," said Patrick Walsh, the head football coach at Serra High.
Reno made the cut this week during the first round in Hollywood. "It definitely defined my future, that I want to pursue , definitely want to be a musician," said the teen.
Reno says his struggles have given him strength- a strength that has helped him go through the rigors of a tough and lengthy competition.
"We were raised not to wear poor on our sleeves. We walk with class, walk with God and that's how I've been living since I was a little boy. You got to keep fighting for what you want. Nothing will be given to you right off the bat, you got to work for everything you want," said the high school junior.
Reno and the other contestants are back home on a short break. They are waiting for the anticipated call back from "American Idol" that can come at any time.