Only five students were accepted to Harvard University’s undergraduate program this year from Colorado and Wyoming combined — and Denver Kids senior, Ha, was one of them.
When Ha was two, her family moved from Vietnam to the United States. She joined Denver Kids in elementary school in order to receive additional support, opportunities, and enrichment. In 7th grade, she met her current Denver Kids Program Manager, Kate.
Kate and Ha would meet a few times each month to discuss goals, check up on grades, discuss mental health, and chat about life.
“When I first met Ha, she was outgoing and bright,” shares Kate. “What I realized about Ha right away is that she takes advantage of opportunities.”
Kate knew it was important to support Ha with activities to fulfill her desire to get out of her comfort zone. From leadership camps to a week-long backpacking trip, Kate could count on Ha to take on any opportunity that came her way through Denver Kids programming.
That included being paired with a Volunteer Mentor, Stephanie. The two have been matched since Ha’s sophomore year of high school.
“She is a remarkable young woman,” says Stephanie. “I’m really glad she’s part of Denver Kids and my life.”
While Ha has always been high-achieving academically — she finished her junior year of high school ranked #1 in her class, with a 5.25 GPA — she has been grateful for the support Denver Kids has provided with future planning.
“It’s been really beneficial to talk about my future with Kate,” shares Ha. “My parents don’t really speak English, so they can’t help with school or college & scholarship applications. It’s nice for them to know someone is really helping me with those things.”
Ha’s parents play a big role in her motivation. They moved to the United States to give their children a better life, which is a big reason Ha feels compelled to succeed academically and take advantage of opportunities. Her parents didn’t have the chance to go to college, but instead worked to provide for their children.
“They pushed me and helped me to focus on school at a young age,” says Ha. “I want to grow up and be successful how my parents want me to be, but I also want to do it for me — and do it in the way that I want to.”
As Ha progressed through high school, she dreamed of going out of state for college, but also kept her eye on some safer options. Both Kate and Stephanie pushed her to apply to challenging schools, such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins, in addition to local schools.
“Our thoughts were that she should just go for all of it. She’s just such an incredible hard working student,” says Kate. “It was worth a shot — the worst that could happen was getting a ‘no.’”
Then, Kate got a 6:00 a.m. text. Ha had earned early-admission acceptance to Harvard. Not only that, but she had received an incredible scholarship package, that made attending the elite university attainable.
“We were all screaming,” shares Kate. “I’m still really in shock, but I’m just so happy and proud of her. Knowing how hard she’s worked since I met her in 7th grade, with all the experiences she’s said yes to over the years; it’s all been leading up to this moment.”
Ha’s first step will be moving to Boston in the fall, pending the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. Then she will begin classes to complete her major in biochemistry. Her ultimate goal is to attend medical school and become a general surgeon.
“I don’t feel quite ready,” says Ha, “but in other ways I am ready to go.”
Kate says it’s normal to have some anxiety about these types of transitions and big changes ahead, “But if anyone’s ready, it’s Ha.”