Philadelphia teen Richard Jenkins used to sleep in a homeless shelter and was nicknamed “Harvard” by bullies for being a bookworm. Now, he is going to the same Ivy League school on a full scholarship.
Jenkins attends Girard College, a boarding school in north Philadelphia, and is this year’s valedictorian.
The 18-year-old found out the good news while in Paris on a school trip. He said Wednesday that he was so excited he threw his cellphone in the middle of a call.
Jenkins said he decided to focus on academics after lying to a friend about sleeping in a homeless shelter in the sixth grade.
“I was so embarrassed to say I lived in a shelter,” he told WHYY. “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.”
Jenkins said he applied to Harvard after receiving a promotional email in his junior year. He said he was especially attracted to its program that pays tuition for students from households that earn less than $65,000 a year.
While Jenkins wasn’t so sure, he said his mom always knew he was going to get into Harvard.
She confirmed that, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer “I was not surprised.”
Jenkins said he plans on studying computer science in order to create a more intuitive virtual assistant.