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Guyanese immigrant raised by single mother accepted into 21 colleges including 8 Ivy League schools
When Kelly Hyles was brought to America by mother Anetta aged just 11, she knew she had been given an amazing opportunity to improve her life.
While Anetta worked two jobs a day to provide for her daughter, Kelly woke herself up at 5.30am in their New York home before traveling an hour and a half to school, then spent her evenings in tutoring classes or volunteering at Mount Sinai hospital.
And her dedication was repaid last month when she received acceptance letters from a total of 21 colleges, including all eight Ivy League schools.
Kelly told People: ‘I was really happy. I’m still in disbelief. I am so grateful.’
Mother Anetta added: ‘By the first one I was in tears of joy, I am screaming and shouting, “Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus.” I was so happy and excited the tears just run out.’
Hyles received acceptance letters from Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania.
She was also accepted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, and New York University, while Stanford has placed her on its waiting list.
Hyles’ journey began in 2009 when mother Anetta decided she had to move to America in order to provide a better life for her daughters, particularly Kelly, who had always been top of her class.
The family came to Brooklyn, where Hyles was enrolled at the prestigious High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College of New York.
In order to support her daughter , Anetta worked each night as a nurse’s aide until 7am, before traveling to her second job as a health care aide, which started at 8am. In total she worked 15 hours each day.
That left Hyles responsible for waking herself up at 5.30am and traveling more than an hour and a half by bus and subway in order to get to school, across the city in Harlem.
After classes finished, Hyles either took part in tutoring lessons to help bump up her grades, or traveled to Mount Sinai hospital where she volunteered in one of the biology labs.
While still at high school, Hyles also voluntarily took and passed a series of college-level classes.
All her effort meant Hyles achieved a remarkable 99.63 GPA, acing nearly every test and assignment with perfect grades, and graduating as valedictorian.
Hyles now wants to visit each university before making a final decision, but says her initial instincts are leading her towards Harvard.
A keen student of biochemistry, Hyles wants to study to become a neurosurgeon.
According to Guyanese Girls Rock, a charity that helped support Hyles’ education, she became interested in the subject after a relative developed Parkinsons.
She added: ‘Make sure that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it because you like it or because you’re interested in it; not because you think it will make your family happy or make your parents happy. Make sure you’re doing it for you.’