Jasmine Mazard-Larry is a remarkable young woman who has overcome many challenges in her life to achieve academic excellence. She is the valedictorian of her high school class, graduating with an 8.07 GPA, one of the highest in the nation. She also earned an associate’s degree from a local community college while still in high school. She has a bright future ahead of her, as she plans to pursue a career in medicine.
But Jasmine’s journey was not easy. She was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was six years old. She has ADHD and hearing loss, which she initially saw as weaknesses, but later learned to embrace as strengths. She said, “They’re not setbacks. They allowed me to be who I am today.”
Four years ago, when she was about to start high school, her family lost their home in a fire. Her mother was nine months pregnant with her brother at the time, and her father was severely injured from the fire. They became homeless for two years, living in hotels and shelters. Jasmine said, “It was really hard because I didn’t have a stable place to do my homework or study.”
Despite these hardships, Jasmine did not give up on her education. She enrolled in Advanced Placement classes and participated in dual enrollment and the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education program, which all helped to boost her GPA. She also joined several clubs and extracurricular activities, such as the National Honor Society, the Student Government Association, and the Science Olympiad.
She said, “I always had this goal of being top in my class, and ultimately I met it.” She also credited her mother, Nidta Mazard, for being her inspiration and support. Her mother said, “She’s been my light. She’s been my rock. I just love her so much because she’s inspired me to be a better mother and a better person.”
Jasmine’s story is not only inspiring, but also rare. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), only 9% of homeless students graduate from high school with a regular diploma, compared to 77% of non-homeless students. Homeless students also face higher rates of chronic absenteeism, suspension, expulsion, and dropout than their peers.
Moreover, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), students with ADHD are more likely to have lower grades, lower test scores, lower self-esteem, and higher rates of substance abuse than students without ADHD. Students with hearing loss also face academic challenges, such as difficulty with language development, reading comprehension, and social skills.
Jasmine defied these statistics and proved that with determination, resilience, and hard work, anything is possible. She also showed that having disabilities or disadvantages does not define one’s potential or worth. She said, “Do not let obstacles and what people say define who you truly are.”
Jasmine is an example of how education can transform lives and empower individuals to overcome adversity. She is also a role model for her younger brother, who she said is her motivation. She said, “I want him to see that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
Jasmine’s valedictory address was a powerful message of hope and encouragement for her fellow graduates and anyone who faces challenges in life. She said, “Rejection doesn’t mean you failed. Rejection means to just be patient. Your time will come.”
She also left them with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Akayla Brown is not your average 18-year-old. She is a senior at Bodine High School in Philadelphia, a founder of a nonprofit organization, and a recipient of the prestigious Gates Scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Gates Scholarship is a highly selective, full scholarship for exceptional, Pell-eligible, minority, high school seniors. It covers the full cost of attendance that is not already covered by other financial aid and the expected family contribution, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Out of 34,000 applicants nationwide, only 300 were chosen as Gates Scholars this year. Akayla Brown was one of them.
“I was ecstatic. I was overjoyed. I was speechless,” Brown said in an interview with NBC Philadelphia. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Brown has been accepted to 18 colleges, including Howard University, Temple University, Drexel University, and Penn State University. She plans to major in international business and hopes to become a global entrepreneur. Continue reading about Akayla Brown here.