Richard Jenkins, 18, has faced his fair share of challenges in his young life. The teen has been homeless and spent time living in shelters from fourth grade until sixth grade. Always dedicated to his studies, Jenkins was teased by his classmates for being a bookworm and was even derisively called “Harvard” by his classmates. He also suffered chronic migraines.
Although he’s an accomplished student, Jenkins doubted whether he would be admitted to Harvard University. He was thrilled when he learned that not only was he accepted, but thanks to university’s policy of paying 100 percent of tuition for students from households that earn less than $65,000, he also qualified for a free ride.
The young scholar had crucial support along the way. Since eighth grade, Jenkins has been a member of Mighty Writers, a nonprofit program in Philadelphia that helps inner-city students hone their writing skills via free classes. The organization shared their congratulations to Jenkins on Twitter:
Richard "Tre" Jenkins came to MW West back five years ago as an 8th-grader. Reports Khalia Robinson, his program director at MW West: "Tre just stopped by to let us know he's scored a full-ride to Harvard." #Mighty #WestPhiladelphia #Harvard pic.twitter.com/qTM8eKN7dK
— Mighty Writers (@MightyWriters) May 10, 2018
Jenkins is graduating this year as the valedictorian of his class at Girard College, a full-scholarship boarding school in Philadelphia for students from low-income families.
Given her son’s perseverance and consistent record of high achievement, his mother, Quiana McLaughlin, was always sure he’d be admitted to Harvard.
“I was not surprised,” McLaughlin told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Jenkins explained that the adversity he faced growing up is what inspired him to focus on academics as a way to better his life, as well as that of his mother and two brothers.
“That was what triggered me that I needed to chase something,” Jenkins told CNN. “No matter what, I can’t allow myself to go through that anymore. I can’t allow my brothers or my mother to go through that when they’re older.”
In addition to earning top grades, Jenkins also had a busy extracurricular schedule throughout high school, including basketball, the mock trial team and the World Affairs Council. He was also the founding member of the Makerspace Club, in which students use 3D printers, sewing machines and other DIY equipment to express their creativity.
He plans to study computer science and focus on artificial intelligence when he starts at Harvard this fall. He hopes to one day create an intuitive virtual assistant.
To help support Jenkins at Harvard, his godfather started a GoFundMe to help with expenses while at college. You can donate to it here.
Congratulations, Richard Jenkins! All your hard work paid off!