Top Tuesday: Local Philly Grad Heads to Harvard after a Childhood in Shelters

Richard Jenkins knew one thing...he was going to escape the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

June 12, 2018

On this Top Tuesday, we want to bring you a top story that is both local and unbelievably heartwarming.  It's the story of Richard Jenkins, one of the 2,037 underclassmen who make up Harvard's class of 2022.  With an acceptance rate of 5.2 %, Harvard is obviously a highly competitive atmosphere.  But Richard's journey and will prove that if anyone is capable of flourishing under academic pressure, it's him.

Richard grew up in Philadelphia, rotating between homeless shelters, motels, and, after stress-induced migraines hospitalized him for weeks at a time, hospital rooms.  He remembers being embarrassed by this, hiding his living situation from friends and vowing that his own children would have more security and opportunity.  Richard knew academics were his way out, and committed himself from an early age to his studies.

In middle school, he joined the organization Mighty Writers, a nonprofit that works to develop writing skills in local youths.  With support from mentors there, Richard sought admission to a selective private high school, a diploma from which would be sure to open up many doors in his future.  Despite mounting stress and resulting migraines, despite time from school spent in a hospital bed, he nonetheless persevered and gained acceptance to Girard College, a prestigious boarding high school here in the city.

Fast forward four years...four years of dedication, of perseverence, of strength...and he is graduating as the Valedictorian.

And he's on his way to Harvard.

You ready for this?  It gets BETTER.

Harvard automatically pays full tuition for any students whose families make under $65,000 a year, so Richard Jenkins is officially attending Harvard FOR FREE.  A GoFundMe was also set up by his godfather to cover other expenses, such as books and food.

This story floated to the top of our heads this top Tuesday because it's everything we'd like to of our own, a redemption story, something that spreads some goodness and light, and, above all, hope.  We have hope in Richard Jenkins, who has changed the course of his life and his children's lives through sheer will.

And that, we feel, puts him on top.