Friday, June 17, 2022 5:23 pm
By Nehru Odeh
Seventeen-year-old Ashley Adirika’s stunning achievement is the stuff dreams are made of. Ashley, whose parents emigrated to the United States 30 years ago, had always dreamt of attending an Ivy League university.
So when the opportunity came last fall, she decided to shoot her shot. She applied to the eight Ivy league universities in the US – Columbia, Cornel, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Yale, Princeton and Brown.
Though Ashley didn’t believe she could make it, the results of her applications came in on 31 March, 2022 and, to her surprise, she found out that she had been accepted to all eight Ivy League universities she applied to.
“I just decided to shoot my shot at all of them and see if it would land. And I had no idea that I would get accepted into all of them …On Ivy Day, I remember crying a lot and just being extremely surprised,” she enthused.
Not only did her shot land, Ashely was completely blown away after opening eight tabs on her computer because all of them displayed her acceptance letter.
“I’m beyond blessed and grateful to have been accepted to some of the most prestigious universities in the world with over $4 million worth of scholarship offers. I’m also extremely appreciative of every individual who has poured into me throughout my journey: family, educators, friends, mentors, coaches —- you all have had a profound impact on me,” she wrote in an Instagram post that has her photo and emblems of all the schools she was accepted into.
“The tears just started to come out. Like they started to flow out. My siblings and I were just really excited, like screaming, jumping around. It was crazy,” the teenager, who did her high school studies at Miami Beach Senior High School, said.
By virtue of this achievement, Ashley joins an exclusive group: Since 2018, each Ivy League school has accepted less than 12% of its applicants. This year Yale accepted 4.5%, Columbia took 3.7% and Harvard accepted just 3.2%, the lowest number in the university’s history. Ashley also got accepted to seven other top-rated schools, including Stanford, Vanderbilt and Emory. She picked Harvard, where she plans to major in government this fall.
This is indeed no mean feat. Getting into an Ivy League school is not a tea party. Aside from having good grades and certification, aspirants must write a convincing Statement of Purpose (SOP) and hope they get selected from the millions of applications that are received from countries all over the world.
Still, a remarkable thing about Ashley’s feat is that her first choice was Yale before the application process. But she ended up choosing Harvard, which reportedly accepted a only 3.19% of applications for the class of 2026.
Though Ashley was conflicted between Harvard and Yale, it all came down to her career aspirations. Her goal is to learn how government works and how policies can help fix economic disparities in communities.
“Before the college application process, Yale was actually my top choice. But when I did further research for what I want to do specifically, which is explorations in policy and social policy and things of that nature, Harvard just had a better program,” she revealed.
Ashley, who wants to go to law school in the future, will start her Ivy League education in the fall. “I am really passionate about policy and using policy to empower communities. And so in the short term, for me, that looks like becoming a lawyer,” she said.
Ashley’s achievement is not coming as a surprise. She had shown great promise at high school, where she was on the debate team and served as a student council president.
“The teenager has always been curious about how the world works, said Bess Rodriguez, debate coach at nearby Carol City Middle School, who recruited Ashley for the team when she was in the eighth grade.
“She was such an immediate force on the team, the other students were scared of debating her, Rodriguez maintained..
“She was very smart and articulate. Some of the debate topics were so sophisticated, like should the US sell arms to Saudi Arabia. She dug into the material, she was always so well prepared,” said Rodriguez, who also teaches English at the middle school.
“The other students would say, ‘Oh no, we have to debate Ashley.’ College debaters and local attorneys would come up to me and say, ‘Wow, we can’t believe she’s in eighth grade. She should be an attorney.'”
Ashley continued with debate in high school, and plans to join the debate team at Harvard. “And yes, she hopes to go to law school after she completes her undergraduate studies. But what she’ll do with her law degree remains up in the air,” Rodriguez averred. .
Still, there’s one thing Ashley’s pretty sure about: She plans to continue making an impact beyond her campus. As a high schooler, she started Our Story Our Worth, an organization that provides mentorship, confidence-building and sisterhood to girls and young women of color. Being part of the debate team, she once said, taught her how to articulate herself when talking to members of the organization.
“When I was in elementary school, I had the privilege of being a part of a mentorship program for girls. I was mentored by women in college and they taught me important skills, instilled confidence into me and gave me the outlet I needed to express myself. I will never forget the sense of solace that their support gave me,” she wrote on the organization’s website.
“Unfortunately, as I continued into middle and high school, that sense of solace began to fade. There was a lack of programs available for girls, much less those of color.”
Our Story Our Worth currently works with girls and young women in the Miami community, but Ashley hopes to expand it nationwide. She credits her work ethic to the women in her life, including her mother, a single mom to five children.
“She has just instilled in me the value of education and working hard, as well as all of the strong women in my life, like my older sisters,” Ashley said. “For me, it’s about making the most of the opportunities that I have at my fingertips and really just making sure that the sacrifices that have been made for me weren’t done in vain.”
At her high school graduation, Ashley gave a speech before the students received their diplomas. Wearing a sash with the words “Black Girl Magic,” she highlighted the importance of preparation, punctuality and finding light even in dark times.
When she is not thinking of new ways to empower girls in her community, Ashley said she loves to play flag football and write in her journal. She also taps into her creative side by painting and writing music.
As she prepares to report to her new home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in August, she has stashed all the acceptance letters and miniature flags she received from different schools in a keepsake box. That way, she said, she’ll always remember that big dreams do come true.
And the sweatshirts and hats she got from all the Ivy League universities she’s not attending? She doled them out to her nieces and nephews. That way, she said, they’ll have a visual reminder that they can do it, too.
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