Cathedral High School senior Blake Shepherd got accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) earlier this month. Shepherd chose the school because of their acclaimed engineering program. The institution’s collaborative atmosphere and welcoming nature made him feel the school was a good fit.

Shepherd plans to study aerospace engineering, as he aspires to work for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works or Space X.

Shepherd was one of 6,507 finalists for QuestBridge, a program that helps students with financial need to apply and get scholarships for the nation’s top-ranked schools. MIT only selected 10 QuestBridge applicants. Along with enrollment, QuestBridge gives students a four-year scholarship.

Prior to getting his acceptance letter, Shepherd became a member of the MIT Flying program. This gave Shepherd the opportunity to stay on campus for three days.

“I went to classes, I did really cool workshops,” he said. “I’m actually seeing MIT students stay up until three o’clock doing homework and it was a really cool experience.”

Shepherd was featured as Student Athlete of the Week in November 2017 for his track and field abilities, high GPA and volunteer work.

While Shepherd embraces a new journey in his life, he leaves behind his cleats. After continuing to practice through injuries, Shepherd decided to no longer pursue track and field.

“I was at a meet in San Diego in the 100m, I was running and I pulled up as in my hamstring cramped … that was the last time I ran or even just stepped on a track for that matter for that season,” he said. “For so long, track has been the center of my attention … accepting that I’m not gonna do that anymore and just chill, that was really emotional.”

MIT is a division III institution, schools at that level do not provide athletic scholarships. Shepherd believes that giving up sprinting will allow him to pursue his interests in engineering and working in labs.

Along with MIT, Shepherd applied for Yale, Princeton, Penn State and Colombia through QuestBridge. In order to finish his applications, he had to prioritize the application process over school work in some occasions. He noted how his teachers were understanding and assigned less work so he and other seniors could work on applications.

Shepherd is the student body president at Cathedral and has implemented activities that put his mark on the school. He helped create a campaign where each class creates their own unique flag.

“You use it at rallies, at assemblies and stuff like that,” Shepherd said. “I’m the most proud of it only because it’s a type of thing that will continue to happen at Cathedral, even when I leave.”

Shepherd has been volunteering at School on Wheels for two years; there, he tutors homeless youth. He is also the president of the National Honor Society and works with the California Scholarship Federation.

His senior year consists of four AP classes: Calculus BC, Government, Biology and English Literature. In his Calculus class, Shepherd acted as a student-teacher to students who need help in Calculus AB.

“For the first couple weeks of school, I was like their teacher and so we would start class and my actual teacher would teach the BC kids, then I would teach the AB kids, help them with their homework and teaching them new topics,” he said. “That was definitely the most fun I had [in the class].”