Once Homeless, This Teen Just Earned a Full Ride Scholarship to Harvard University
Philadelphia, PA — Richard Jenkins, who spent his life as a child in numerous homeless shelters, is now off to conquer Harvard. Jenkins was accepted to attend the prestigious university and was awarded a full-ride scholarship.
Richard Jenkins, an 18-year-old African American teen, has experienced a lot of hardships throughout his childhood. He was bullied at school, he had medical issues, and they were poor. He and his mom and brothers transferred from a shelter to another from Tennesee to Florida then back to Philadelphia after they lost their home to foreclosure.
“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.”
He used those struggles as inspirations to one day go to college, strive and study harder to achieve that. He excelled in class even though he suffered from severe migraines, particularly in his ninth grade when his father suffered a heart attack.
Jenkins was eventually accepted in Girard College, a local boarding high school for gifted students. There, he joined the mock trial program, the World Affairs Council, and the basketball team. He also established 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 one of her classes.
When the time for college applications came, he aimed for the top-tier schools. But he was waitlisted at the University of Pennsylvania and was denied entrance into Yale.
“I thought, ‘Alright, time to start looking at other school options,’” he said.
And so the next email he opened was a very special one.
He continued, “Then I opened up Harvard and threw my phone because I saw the word ‘welcome.’”Jenkins called his mom, Quiana McLaughlin, to share the good news.
“I think I said, ‘I told you so,’” said McLaughlin, laughing. “I just had a feeling he would be accepted. He had all the qualifications.”
Aside from the acceptance, he was also given a full-ride scholarship and allowance for room and board.
Jenkins, who is set to graduate as valedictorian in June, plans to study computer science with a specialization in artificial intelligence. He also wants to take Japanese language classes and learn Kendo, a martial art involving martial swords.
“I just want him to find success, however he defines it for himself,” said his proud mom.
His godfather, Donald Kinsey Jr., started a GoFundMe to help Jenkins buy some things for college, such as new clothes and a tablet computer.
“He will work his way through college, pay for his expenses himself and won’t ask or need anyone’s help,” Kinsey said. “I’m creating this campaign because Richard Jenkins III deserves a reward.”
Jenkins, knowing his own struggles, wants to inspire other aspiring students.
“There’s going to be times when you’ll stumble off the track or think you don’t want to continue,” he said, “but as long as you stick to the plan, you’ll be fine.”