Bullied Teen Who Was Once Homeless Heads To Harvard On Full Ride

“There’s a lot of places I didn’t think possible — including Harvard,” he admitted. “I don’t know, I guess I just thought: ‘I’m black. And I’m not that smart.’”

Richard “Tre” Jenkins, who was once homeless and bullied, has been awarded a full scholarship to Harvard University.

Jenkins, 18, has experienced several obstacles already in his young life that have led him to this incredible achievement.

“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,” Jenkins told WHYY.

“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,” Jenkins continued. “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.”

While putting his energy into school to secure a better future, he started having critical migraines that landed him in the hospital for weeks at a time.

“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 said. “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’ perseverance has really paid off. He was chosen as valedictorian for his graduating class at Girard College, a full-scholarship prep boarding school for disadvantaged students.

Interestingly enough, Jenkins almost didn’t even apply to Harvard.

“There’s a lot of places I didn’t think possible — including Harvard,” he admitted. “I don’t know, I guess I just thought: ‘I’m black. And I’m not that smart.’”

It seems, however, that his childhood bullies actually foreshadowed his future as they taunted him for being a bookworm by calling him “Harvard.” And now, that is exactly where he’s headed. He plans to study computer science with aspirations of creating a “more intuitive Siri.”

He found out the exciting news while in France on a school trip.

“We were in Paris for a spring break educational trip,” Jenkins said. “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, ‘OK, 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!”

Jenkins didn't need fairy godparents to make his wishes come true. He worked hard, he believed in himself, and he silenced naysayers.  

What’s better than an inspirational story that also serves as a metaphorical middle finger to bullies?

 Banner/Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

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