Tag: homeless to Harvard

Richard Jenkins, 18, Once Homeless, to Attend Harvard University on a Full Scholarship

Harvard-bound high school senior Richard Jenkins (photo via cnn.com)

by Isabella Gomez and Justin Lear via cnn.com

When he was a kid, Richard Jenkins raised his hand in class so often bullies started calling him “Harvard.”

“It was their way of taunting me, like, ‘Oh, you think you’re so smart,” he said. As it turns out, he was. Now, after overcoming a challenging childhood, the high school senior from Philadelphia is headed to Harvard University on a full scholarship.

Jenkins, 18, faced a multitude of difficulties growing up, including poverty, medical emergencies and harassment from his classmates. But he turned these obstacles into motivation to create a better future for himself and his family. He and his two younger brothers were homeless for two years after their mother lost their home to foreclosure, forcing them to move to Tennessee and then to Florida before heading back to Philadelphia.

He remembers living in a shelter during the sixth grade and realizing academics could become his way out. “That was what triggered me that I needed to chase something,” he 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.”

Upping his game

Although schoolwork had always come naturally to him, Jenkins began studying harder to hone his curiosity and earn good grades. He excelled in his classes and developed a strong interest in technology. Despite suffering from severe migraines, which landed him in the hospital during his freshman year, Jenkins stayed on top of his schoolwork.

When his mother learned there was an opening in the eleventh-grade class at Girard College, a Philadelphia boarding school for gifted students from single-parent households in need, she encouraged him to apply.

Quiana McLaughlin told CNN she liked the extracurricular opportunities the school had to offer and was thrilled when her son was accepted.

There, Jenkins joined the mock trial program, the World Affairs Council and the basketball team. He also started Makers’ Space Club, an area with 3D printers, sewing machines and other DIY equipment students can use to bring their ideas to life. “He is so creative and he loves taking the initiative to do something,” said Hye Kyong Kim, a tech coordinator at the school, who had Jenkins in her class last fall.

As college application season came, Jenkins decided to try Harvard — along with other Ivy League schools — after receiving an email from them.

He was visiting Paris on a school trip in late March when he learned of the schools’ decisions.

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Toronto Native Tonika Morgan Goes from Homeless to Harvard Graduate School, Thanks to Crowdfunding

Tonika Morgan, pictured at the Artscape Youngplace in Toronto.
Tonika Morgan, pictured at the Artscape Youngplace in Toronto. (Photo: ISA MIGUEL RANSOME)

Tonika Morgan has not had an easy life. Now 32, the Toronto woman says she left home at 14, was homeless for four years, and slept in shelters and on park benches. She was kicked out of high school, she says, because she hardly ever showed up.

Even though she’s overcome problems that would overwhelm almost anyone, it wasn’t until this year that she faced what she calls her “biggest fear of all”: the fear that her application to attend Harvard’s Graduate School of Education next fall would be rejected.

It wasn’t. She’s in. But with her acceptance letter came another big worry: that she couldn’t pay the approximately $77,000 needed for the one-year master’s program, where tuition alone is $43,280.

So, lacking resources or workable options, she joined a growing number of needy college students and turned to crowdfunding to raise the money. She launched a “Mission for Harvard Tuition” in April on the GoFundMe site.  According to aol.com, after local media publicized the page, Morgan exceeded her goal and nearly $93,000 dollars was fundraised.

But Tonika Morgan knows that being able to go to her Harvard is not without the help of others who are helping her fulfill a dream of a lifetime.  “I have to say that this has been quite emotional for me. I have shared hugs, tears of joy and laughter with the beautiful souls who have noticed me on the street. I’ve never felt more supported and connected to anyone the way I have felt since this campaign started.”

“I was on the trolley and this woman reached her hand out and started crying,” Morgan, who goes by “Toni,” said in a phone interview from Toronto. “She said, ‘I’m so proud of you!’ I didn’t know that by telling my own truth, I’d connect with so many people.”

Continue reading “Toronto Native Tonika Morgan Goes from Homeless to Harvard Graduate School, Thanks to Crowdfunding”

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