10 Students Who Overcame Massive Obstacles to Achieve Their Dream of an Education
These are some fantastic stories of children who strove to defy the odds….
Whenever your morale starts flagging — when you start to feel like the world is against you, the obstacles in your path are insurmountable, or the goals you have set for yourself are no more than pipe dreams — take a moment to reflect on those who have faced even more impossible odds just to achieve something that most of us take for granted: education. What follows is a series of profiles on ten students from all walks of life who have overcome extraordinary adversity of all kinds — and emerged with remarkable stories of courage, strength, and determination.
1. Khadijah Williams
By the time she turned 18, Khadijah Williams had attended twelve schools in as many years. She had lived in shelters, in parks and in motels, never in a permanent residence for more than a few months. She had endured the leering of pimps and drug dealers, and the tauntings of students at a dozen schools who pegged her as “different.” But in 2009, at age 18, Khadijah had also been accepted at Harvard University. Homeless since early childhood, Khadijah struggled all her life to hide her circumstances from teachers and fellow students. At age 9 she placed in the 99th percentile on a state exam, and her teacher told her she was “gifted.” From that moment forward, Khadijah decided to do whatever it took to keep herself in that category. “I was so proud of being smart I never wanted people to say,”You got the easy way out because you’re homeless,” she told The LA Times. “I never saw it as an excuse.”
By sophomore year of high school, she realized that she could not succeed in getting the education she dreamed of without getting help to go beyond what her current school could offer. She talked to teachers and counselors who helped her apply to summer community college classes, scholarships, and enrichment programs. And in 11th grade, when she enrolled at Jefferson High School, she decided to complete the rest of her school career there — a decision that meant taking a bus each morning at 4 a.m. and not getting home until 11 p.m.
When it came time to apply for college, Khadijah finally told the whole story of her life, including how difficult it had been to keep up at school, in her application essay. By focusing not on the hardships she endured, but rather on the lessons and skills she learned from them, she was accepted into Harvard.
Once Khadijah felt ready to tell her story, it won her notice not only from college admissions boards, but also from the news media, including Oprah, who profiled Khadijah on her show. Now a successful student at Harvard, Khadijah continues to use the lessons of her extraordinary life to help and inspire other students.