Bengal Bios: From Big Top to BHS


Staff illustration

Junior David Amaral spent most of his childhood traveling with the circus because his parents were performers. A couple of years ago, he became a full-time high school student and is now working on finishing up his high school career at Braswell.

His arms wrapped tightly around him, the lanky 17-year-old approaches the entrance to Ryan High School.

He grits his teeth and stumbles through the doors as his eyes scan the interior, taking in the curious eyes and furrowed brows of his fellow students.

He’s taller than them. Not by much, but by enough.

Even though the school isn’t as big as he had expected, he still feels small here, and exposed.

It isn’t his first time in a school — he spent about a month at Savannah Elementary in fifth grade and a short period at Navo Middle School in sixth grade before his parents uprooted him.

He lowers his head and strolls to the office. Here we go, again.

Making the transition

Nearly three years later, David Amaral, 19, is a junior in high school. He is three years older than most of his classmates, with a man’s body and a full-grown beard.

For the past two years, Amaral attended Ryan. Now he’s here, at the newly opened Braswell. It’s the longest he’s ever attended school.

Prior to joining the metaphorical circus that is public school, Amaral was part of a literal one. His parents were circus performers, and in 1997, they welcomed their son into the Big Top.

“I was actually born in between shows during the George Carden Shrine Circus,” Amaral said.

For 10 years, Amaral grew up in the circus and loved it. He had front row seats to every performance, was constantly traveling, was allowed to play with the animals.

But then came the question: How would he get an education? His family enrolled him in Denton ISD for a short time when he was elementary aged, until it was time to leave again for their performances.

“Me and our family, we would shoot out every summer and winter from Texas and basically [drive] up to Wisconsin and even further than that,” Amaral said. “We performed shows for the summer and winter months, and then we would come back home and basically detox until it was time to do that again.”

Public school was simply too much for Amaral; the amount of makeup work resulting from his time away overwhelmed him.

So his family tried homeschooling.

“It was the toughest thing,” Amaral said. “I was not used to a homeschooling environment.”

Amaral longed for an open environment with other kids his age, who were going through the same things he was.

Then came one of the biggest milestones in Amaral’s life: his parents quit their job as circus performers and instead picked up magic as their next career, performing at local shows. They officially enrolled him in Navo Middle School.

But his time at Navo ended sooner than the Amaral family had hoped.

His family once again packed up their things and headed out on the road for magic shows, rather than the circus. Two years later, though, Amaral was back and ready for high school.

A new beginning

For Amaral, Ryan High School was a fresh start. He made a few friends in the beginning, but he was never treated as he’d hoped. It had always been difficult for him to fit in and find true friends.

“[Being three years older than everyone else] is something I can really never forget. It wasn’t until I came to places like [Ryan and Braswell High School and Navo Middle School] when I realized how crazy my life really was,” Amaral said. “To me, growing up in a circus was the norm, because I had really only known other kids who performed. So coming back into the public, like high school, middle school, stuff like that, it was so weird to see people completely baffled by the fact that yeah, I was born in a circus and raised in a magic show.”

Of course, kids continue to eye him. But after adjusting the best he can, Amaral’s age difference has nearly, almost vanished from his thoughts. He has at last found true friends, he says, and he is at school to learn and to be with those friends.

“At the end of the day I realized: This is not about what other people think,” Amaral said. “This is about me, and I’m here to pass and to pursue my career as a concept artist. I mean, nothing is really going to get in the way of that. My age may be a big shocker … but at the end of the day, I’m not letting my age define me. I’m letting my skills define me.”

After all, in all the ways that count, Amaral is just an ordinary teenage boy. He has a girlfriend, Summer, and he enjoys tennis, soccer and video games. Most of all, he loves to draw, especially reptiles.

In fact, there are some days, when he’s lost in schoolwork or art, that Amaral can scarcely comprehend that he once lived such a vastly different life.

“I have pictures and videos of proof that I lived that life [in a circus],” Amaral said, “And now even I can’t believe it.”