CHICAGO — The son of an immigration activist who gained nationwide attention while taking refuge in a Chicago church now has his eyes on college.

The Chicago Tribune reports ( Saul Arellano’s mother became a lightning rod in the U.S. immigration debate when she sought sanctuary a decade ago in a church while fighting her second deportation to Mexico.

Saul was born in the U.S. but spent a year living in the church with his mother starting in August 2006. He appeared by her side during news conferences, which catapulted them to the front lines of an international debate. After his mother was deported in 2007, Saul eventually took up her cause and traveled between the U.S. and Mexico to lobby for immigration reform.

Now 18 and graduating from high school, Saul said he hopes to attend Northeastern Illinois University. He said he plans to pursue a career fighting for justice, a cause for which he has long fought. As a child, he spoke at immigration reform rallies in Washington, Los Angeles, Boston and Miami.

“People actually believe in what we’re doing,” he said. “That’s all I need, just one person who believes that I’m doing something right.”

He has more than one. During his months living in the church, Saul, unlike his mother, could leave. An assistant pastor would sneak him out so he could spend time at a local Boys & Girls Club, where Saul still helps children with their homework between working.

That’s where a board member of the Boys & Girls Club heard about his story, saw his work ethic — and offered to pay his college tuition.

“He’s a role model,” said Ginger Meyer, whose husband, Jim, is on the board. “We are just helping someone who is doing something much bigger. He’s already given so much to our country through what he has done in the Boys & Girls Club. … This is what we would want from all of our citizens.”

Hector Perez, vice president of club services for Union League Boys &Girls Club, said many teenagers Saul’s age are often on their phones or hanging out. But he said Sault doesn’t do that.

“He’s so mature” Perez said. “He’s got a really powerful message of not giving up the fight for your rights and stand for what you believe in.”

Information from: Chicago Tribune,