Attending an Ivy League school has always been Ashley Adirika’s dream. In the fall she applied to all eight schools.
Ashley turned on her laptop to check for acceptance letters during Ivy Day. It is the most anticipated day when prestigious universities announce their first-year admission decisions.
And to the Florida teen’s surprise, she got into every universities: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale.
The 17-year old was surrounded by her family, including her four siblings, as she celebrated each acceptance letter from the universities.
“I just decided to shoot my shot at all of them and see if it would land. And I had no idea that I would get accepted into all of them,” said Ashley, whose mother emigrated to the US from Nigeria 30 years ago. “On Ivy Day, I remember crying a lot and just being extremely surprised.”
Ashley has graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School and is now part of an elite group. This feat is all the more remarkable considering that Ivy League schools have accepted less than 12 percent of their applicants since 2018.
The brilliant student was also accepted to seven other top-rated universities such as Vanderbilt, Emory and Stanford.
Ashley decided to go to Harvard, where she will major in government. She is interested in learning how the system works and how policies can address economic disparities.
She was unsure which college she preferred before applying to college. She ended up choosing the former because it had a better program to match her interests.
To those who know Ashley, this accomplishment isn’t unexpected, given that she was a force on the debate team and also served as student council president.
“She was very smart and articulate,” said Bess Rodriguez, the debate coach who recruited Ashley for the team when she was in eighth grade. “Some of the debate topics were so sophisticated, like should the US sell arms to Saudi Arabia. She dug into the material, she was always so well prepared.”
“The other students would say, ‘Oh no, we have to debate Ashley.’ College debaters and local attorneys would come up to me and say, ‘Wow, we can’t believe she’s in eighth grade. She should be an attorney,’” she added.
Ashley plans on joining the Harvard debate team after her undergraduate studies and hopes to attend lawschool.
“I am really passionate about policy and using policy to empower communities. And so in the short term, for me, that looks like becoming a lawyer,” she said. “But in the long term, I want to use that as a platform to do work in policy.”
Ashley founded Our Story Our Worth as a mentorship organization for young women of color in high school.
The group works with young girls in Miami, but Ashley wants to expand it nationally.
Ashley has the women in her life, including her mother—a single mom to five children—to thank for her incredible work ethic.
“She has just instilled in me the value of education and working hard, as well as all of the strong women in my life, like my older sisters,” she said. “For me, it’s about making the most of the opportunities that I have at my fingertips and really just making sure that the sacrifices that have been made for me weren’t done in vain.”
Ashley loves to play flag football, write in her journal, paint, and create music in her free time.
To help her remember that dreams can come true, she has kept all of the acceptance letters and miniature flags from all the schools she was accepted into in a keepsake container.
As for the sweatshirts and hats she got from all the Ivy League universities she’s not attending, she gave them to her nieces and nephews as a tangible reminder that they can do it, too.
Click on the video to learn more about Ashley.
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