In the past, Richard “Tre” Jenkins was bullied by peers who found his devotion to his academics uncool. The Philadelphia teen’s studious behavior resulted in him being called “Harvard.” Now, the name branded on him by haters is the institution he will call home for the next four years.
Although Jenkins’ story has a happy ending, it began with several rough patches, one of which was homelessness.
“In the sixth grade, one time I was walking from school with my friend, and he was asking me where I lived because his house was right around the corner from where we were. The shelter looked like a big house—it could have been a mansion. So I told him, ‘Yeah, that’s my house right there’ because I was so embarrassed to say I lived in a shelter,” Richard told WHYY. “But that’s when I realized I’ve got to buckle in because I can’t have my potential kids going through what I’m going through now.”
Jenkins’ determination to receive a stellar education was nearly compromised when he began suffering debilitating migraines. One particular migraine was so severe, it resulted in his hospitalization.
“My migraines started in the eighth grade because of all of the stress I was dealing with at the time. There was a lot of pressure to get into high school and succeed. And then my dad had a heart attack. In the summer of the eighth grade it got really bad,” he told the radio station. “I got hospitalized; they put me on every medicine they had. But I was eventually able to fight through it and get my work done, because at the end of the day, that was what was the most important to me.”
Jenkins persisted through every challenge life tossed his way. After moving past his time in the shelter and his health issues, Jenkins found himself choosing which schools to send applications.
“Letters started coming. There was an email I got from Harvard, so I was like, ‘Okay, this is the big time.’ I thought this means I can actually go to these places; at least I know I’m a good candidate,” Jenkins to WHYY.
Then, on a trip to Paris, Jenkins got the best news of his life.
“We were in Paris for a spring break educational trip,” he told WHYY. “I set the tabs on my computer for all the Ivy League schools I had applied to. I checked Penn; I got wait-listed. I checked Yale and I got denied. In the back of my head I’m already thinking, ‘Okay, Harvard’s going to deny me too.’ And then I open up the Harvard tab and there’s a link to a video saying,
‘Welcome to the class of 2022.’ I was talking to my girlfriend; I threw my phone!”
In addition to his acceptance, Jenkins was selected as valedictorian at his school, Girard College, a boarding school in North Philly that is a full-scholarship prep school for disadvantaged students.
In the fall, Jenkins will become a student at the prestigious Ivy League university, where he will study computer science.
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