Richard “Tre” a Jenkins, an 18-year-old Philadelphia student who overcame homelessness and bullying, will be heading to Harvard University this fall on a full scholarship.
Despite the struggles in his childhood, Jenkins has soared academically. The teen currently attends Girard College, a 1st through 12th grade college preparatory boarding school in North Philly which covers tuition for students from single-parent homes who are in need of financial assistance.
Jenkins has maintained an “A” grade average in school, and is valedictorian of his class, but the teen has persevered through a lot over the years.
When he was in elementary school, his mother, Quiana Hamilton, moved the family to Tennessee, partially to escape violence in their Philly neighborhood. They later relocated from Tennessee to Florida where they fell on hard times, and at one point lived between motels and shelters.
“My last memory of Florida is walking for miles on a highway with a TV that my dad had gotten me for Christmas in both my hands, while my mom pushed the stroller and some other stuff,” Jenkins recalled in a recent interview with the Philly Inquirer. “It was a bad time.”
In the eighth grade, Jenkins began suffering from debilitating migraines brought on by the stress that he was “dealing with at the time,” which included feeling the pressure to get into a good high school. Adding insult to injury, Jenkins’ father suffered a heart attack.
But Jenkins was eventually able to power through his medical issues. He also joined Mighty Writers, an after-school program aimed at improving students’ writing skills.
Bullies dubbed him “Harvard” because of his love of learning, and while it seems that they were unknowingly predicting his future, Jenkins was apprehensive about applying to the university. “There’s a lot of places I didn’t think possible — including Harvard,” he told the Philly Inquirer. “I don’t know, I guess I just thought: I’m black. And I’m not that smart.’”
Jenkins applied to multiple Ivy Leagues including Yale, which denied him, and the University of Pennsylvania where he was waitlisted. He found out that he got accepted to Harvard while on a school trip to Paris. “In the back of my head I’m already thinking, ‘Okay, Harvard’s going to deny me too,’” he recalled to Philly’s WHYY. “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!”
Although Jenkins didn’t think he was smart enough for Harvard, his mother definitely believed in him and made education a priority. Needless to say, Hamilton isn’t “surprised” that her son is now Harvard bound.
Jenkins will be studying computer science at Harvard, and wants to create a “more intuitive” version of Apple’s Suri.
See more on his story in the video below.