Richard Jenkins, an 18-year-old homeless teenager, fought over all of his high school classmates to win the best student title and a scholarship to Harvard, in 2018.
Richard Jenkins and his family spent the majority of their childhood in homeless shelters. They were evicted from their home owing to foreclosure and ended up homeless for years, suffering from poverty and a slew of serious medical issues.
Their plight inspired Richard to work harder to keep his family from becoming homeless and to provide a brighter future for his unborn children. “I was walking home from school with a friend in sixth grade, and he asked me where I lived,” he recounted.
“The shelter appeared to be a large house – it could have been a mansion.” Because I was embarrassed to mention I lived in a shelter, I told him, ‘Yeah, that’s my house right there.’ “That’s when I knew I had to buckle down because I don’t want my possible children to go through what I’m going through right now,” he told WHYY.
Richard Jenkins received assistance from Mighty Writers, a non-profit after-school program that he attended in the middle of the school year. He was able to apply to tough and selective secondary schools because of the program’s assistance with his writing skills.
He worked hard and was eventually admitted at Girard College in Pennsylvania, United States, a full-scholarship boarding secondary school for children from low-income single-parent families.
Richard Jenkins spared no course at Girad College, passing them all with straight A’s to obtain a 100% high school record and emerge as the finest graduating student in his class.
Jenkins was able to soar at Girard. He concentrated his interests by joining the mock trial program, the World Affairs Council, and the basketball team. He also established the Makers’ Space Club, a space where students may utilize 3D printers, sewing machines, and other DIY equipment to bring their ideas to life.
“He is really creative, and he enjoys taking the initiative to accomplish something,” said Hye Kyong Kim, the school’s IT coordinator, who had Jenkins as a student.
When it came time to apply to universities, he focused on the top-tier institutions. He was placed on the waitlist at the University of Pennsylvania and was denied admission to Yale.
“I thought, ‘OK, time to look at other school possibilities,'” he added.
But then he opened an important email.
“I then opened Harvard and tossed my phone away when I read the word ‘welcome.'”
He called his mother, Quiana McLaughlin, to inform her of the wonderful news.
“I guess I said, ‘I told you so,'” McLaughlin chuckled. “I just had a gut feeling he’d be accepted.” He met all of the requirements.”