A 16-year-old girl named Kelisha Williams has won a full scholarship to Harvard University and is set to pursue a degree in Political Science at the university.
Kelisha Williams is an Ohio teen who lives in a foster care home. She said the last few years have been rough for her which has made her move from different foster care five times in less than two years.
Kelisha told BOTWC that she finally found a safe haven in a foster home mom, Maria Finkenstead who runs Specialized Alternatives for Families & Youth (SAFY). “Maria is definitely easy-going. Probably the most easy-going parent I’ve had,” Kelisha said.
She was juggling work together with school and preparing for college. Fikenstead said she inquired about her college admission asking her if she passed the American College Test (ACT), which is a national standardized test that serves as a measurement of aptitude and critical thinking.
“I said, ‘Hey did you take the ACT?’ She said, ‘Yeah,’ and I said, ‘Well, what did you get?’ And she’s like, a 32, and I was like, ‘You can go anywhere,’” Finkenstead recalled.
Kelisha said she initially set her sights on an Ivy League school and her dream school, the University of Southern California. She mentioned that she applied to 24 schools in total, including Harvard, which she said she applied to as a joke.
During her application process to Harvard, she said she was required to complete her admissions interview for Harvard. One of the requirements was speaking with Lin Manuel Miranda and Former First Lady Michelle Obama as a part of the process.
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Kelisha said she asked Michelle Obama how she persevered despite facing numerous challenges, to which the former First Lady replied, “You just have to keep going. No one’s ever fully always on your side.” Those words provided Kelisha with the motivation she needed to press forward.
She said when it was time to check her account and see if she got accepted, she was very shocked to see the confetti burst across the screen with the words “Congratulations.”
“I started screaming at first, and then I started crying and was pretty hysterical after that,” she said. “I went nuts. I gave her her first hug. It was our first hug…She’s done all the work. All the determination has come from her. I take no credit in any of her accomplishments,” Finkelstein added.
Kelisha said she will be heading to Harvard on a full-ride scholarship to study political science and psychology. She said she hopes that her story provides hope for other foster children dealing with the obstacles she encountered.
“To any of the foster kids that are watching, everyone always says it’s going to get better. I never used to believe that when I was going through it and stuff like that. Eventually, it does,” she said.