Schools

Once homeless teen gets full ride to Harvard

Richard Jenkins said he plans on studying computer science.

Richard "Tre" Jenkins. Michael Bryant / The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia teen Richard Jenkins used to sleep in a homeless shelter and was nicknamed “Harvard” by bullies for being a bookworm. Now, he is going to the same Ivy League school on a full scholarship.

Jenkins attends Girard College, a boarding school in north Philadelphia, and is this year’s valedictorian.

The 18-year-old found out the good news while in Paris on a school trip. He said Wednesday that he was so excited he threw his cellphone in the middle of a call.

Jenkins said he decided to focus on academics after lying to a friend about sleeping in a homeless shelter in the sixth grade.

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“I was so embarrassed to say I lived in a shelter,” he told WHYY. “But that’s when I realized I’ve got to buckle in because I can’t have my potential kids going through what I’m going through now.”

Jenkins said he applied to Harvard after receiving a promotional email in his junior year. He said he was especially attracted to its program that pays tuition for students from households that earn less than $65,000 a year.

While Jenkins wasn’t so sure, he said his mom always knew he was going to get into Harvard.

She confirmed that, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer “I was not surprised.”

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Jenkins said he plans on studying computer science in order to create a more intuitive virtual assistant.