Some graduating seniors pin their college acceptance letters to the refrigerator for all family members to see. But for 17-year-old Michael Brown, getting accepted to Stanford in December on a full-ride scholarship was the beginning of an incredible journey that would land him in the pages of the Houston Chronicle, Washington Post, and New York Times.
This spring, Brown, a student at Lamar High School in Houston, received acceptance letters from not just one, but 20 schools — each offering him a full ride through a combination of scholarships and financial aid, the Houston Chronicle first reported.
The long list of colleges includes four Ivy League schools, liberal arts colleges Amherst and Pomona, and the Universities of Texas and Michigan.
Brown credits his mom, Berthinia Rutledge-Brown, for pushing him to succeed. While Michael was in elementary school, Berthinia attended Houston Community College in order to get her associate’s degree, the Washington Post reported.
“That’s the first time I understood what going to college might look like,” Brown told the Washington Post. “And seeing how important it was to my mom was important to me. I don’t even think she really knew that I saw, that it had an impact on me — but it did.”
Until Michael received a full ride to Stanford, Berthinia worried she may be unable to pay for his college education — but now Michael has a very different decision in front of him: Harvard or Stanford?
Regardless of where he chooses to study, Brown hopes his story can inspire others like him to get a college education.
“I want to remain humble through all this,” he said. “Out of all the students to achieve similar feats, I am just very happy and very honored to share my story and inspire other students.”
In Houston, where Brown is from, more than half of all black students attend low-income schools, the Atlantic reports. According to a 2011 report, drop-out rates for black students in Houston was 16%, far above that of other demographics.
But these discrepancies aren’t unique to just the Houston area.
Nationwide, the achievement gap between black and white students has barely budged in the past 50 years, according to Education Next. As reported in the 2013 National Assessment for Educational Progress, black students were, on average, in the 19th percentile for reading and 22nd for math.