“Dear Mr. Walkingstick, I am delighted to inform you…” When James Walkingstick of Afton, Okla. read his Harvard University acceptance letter, he could hardly believe it. After being rejected under Early Decision for missing documents, he had re-applied under Regular Decision.
“I sincerely thought there was no way I would be accepted,” he said. “That made receiving the acceptance letter in March so much better. After finding out, I called over half of my contacts to let them know the good news. I was elated to be accepted to one of the most prestigious universities in the world!”
Walkingstick, an eighteen-year-old senior at Afton High School is in the Upward Bound program operated out of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO). Upward Bound is a grant-funded program designed to help high school students acquire the skills and develop the motivation to succeed in both high school and their postsecondary education. During the program, students participate in leadership training, motivational workshops, ACT prep, college visits, and a six-week summer academy. Program Director Elsie Grover and the Upward Bound staff work with students for either three or four years depending on when they enter the program.
“When James entered the program, he didn’t list a single college he was interested in attending,” said Grover. “Over the past four years, it has been exciting to see him develop into an outgoing, self-confident, and strong leader who can accomplish anything he sets his mind to. He constantly impresses me with his drive and his entire Upward Bound family is excited for his acceptance and we will be cheering him on every step of the way.”
The Upward Bound program admits students who attend Afton, Commerce, Fairland, Grove, Miami, Quapaw, or Wyandotte schools and who meet income eligibility requirements. To be eligible, the student must also be a first-generation four-year college student.
“I will be the first in my family to attend college and I knew early that college was the place for me,” said Walkingstick. “When the Upward Bound program visited my school, I had a million questions that I hoped they could answer. I am so appreciative to the program staff. They answered all of my countless questions and I owe my success in college preparation to them. I was quiet and shy when I entered the program, but now I feel completely comfortable leading a group. I have a definite path to success.”
Harvard University is one of the most prestigious Ivy League Universities in the United States. With an acceptance rate of only 5.4 percent, attendees are part of an exclusive group of students. With the encouragement of his friends, family, and teachers, Walkingstick applied despite the odds.
“Wayne Gretzky said ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,’ and I have a passion for challenging the odds. The only way to find out if I was Harvard material was to take that step and apply.”
Walkingstick’s current plans include majoring in Pre-Med, but he noted he is open to exploring new course along the way.
“I plan on becoming a general practitioner, but I am open to the many other careers the medical field offers. Once I am in college, I feel like I will become more in tune with what I would like to do, so I look forward to finding my niche.”
He also understands that being accepted is a step on his journey and he encourages other students to begin the process of college hunting early.
“With only a few months left for seniors, it can seem like we are already at the finish line, but we have to keep stride if we want to reach out goals. Whether they are freshmen or seniors, I would advise that all students should prepare for college as much as they can. Talk with current students, explore scholarships, and take the ACT or SAT. Through practicing good habits like the ones I learned in Upward Bound, you will reap your rewards by the time you graduate.”
Along with all the frenzy that surrounds high school graduation, Walkingstick will now prepare to travel to Cambridge in the fall. Armed with the skills he learned through the NEO Upward Bound program, he will continue to create his future.
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