EDGEFIELD, S.C. — Emily Santiago-Preachers is going to Harvard, even though it wasn’t her first choice.
That was Stanford. Apparently, folks there didn’t see what Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Yale and Furman saw.
No problem. The 2017 Strom Thurmond High School grad is happy with her consolation prize. And she has a scholarship that will cover more than half of her college costs.
If her story sounds familiar, that’s because it’s nearly identical to that of Arturo Pineda, a 2014 STHS grad who is attending Yale on a full scholarship.
“People would say I’m the next Arturo,” said Santiago-Preachers, who met Pineda in a high school art class and came to consider him her mentor.
When he was a senior and she was a sophomore, “we would always compete with test scores and everything,” she said. “He was egging me on to come there (Yale), and I did get accepted. He picks on me for going to Harvard but he’s happy I’m going there.”
Santiago-Preachers, 18, made 1440 on the SAT. The highest possible score is 1600. Her ACT score was 32, which means she scored better than 95 percent of all those who took it. And she topped her mentor, Arturo, by a point.
During high school, she was salutatorian, sang in Honors Choir, acted in Performing Arts shows, played varsity soccer and was a member of the BETA and Acts of Kindness clubs.
Her after-school job was working at the local Bi-Lo store’s bakery, decorating cakes. She’s proud of her work, too, and happy to show pictures of her best creations. For a while, during a staff shortage, she went in before school and came back after.
She’ll be the first in her family to go to college, although her mother, Jennifer Brooke Edwards, studied nursing in technical school and works as an RN at University Hospital.
“My dad never made it to middle school,” she said. He has a construction business and became a U.S. citizen about a year ago.
He didn’t grasp at first what a big deal her Harvard acceptance was, Santiago-Preachers said.
“I called him and he said: ‘Oh, cool. How far is it?’”
Santiago-Preachers plans to study neuropsychology, a branch of the science that focuses on the brain and nervous system and their role in understanding and behavior. She’s particularly interested in helping to treat brain injury or disease.
Before Aug. 22 – move in day at Harvard – she “has to buy a whole new wardrobe” that includes some winter clothes, and try to adjust to the idea of leaving her sleepy little town for Boston.
She and her mother will go up a few days early and explore the city a bit, Santiago-Preachers said.
She’ll live in a dorm, but doesn’t know which one yet or who her roommate will be. She’ll probably look for a part-time job, since her scholarship won’t provide for everything.
It’s the adventure of her young lifetime, and Santiago-Preachers said she’s embracing it, but sometimes a little nervousness shows through.
“I’m very much excited,” she said. “I don’t know how it’s going to be. It’ll be a new place, new people and I won’t know anyone.”
Reach James Folker at (706) 823-3338 or email@example.com.