South LA grad earns $3.5M in scholarships, accepted to 39 universities, heading to Berkeley

Tuesday, August 16, 2022
SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Ever since Jaden Hunter was a little boy growing up in South Los Angeles, he's always been focused on his education.

This year he graduated at the top of his class from Crenshaw Arts Tech Charter High with 4.7 grade point average and was named co-valedictorian.

"I felt good because my hard work paid off. All the long sleepless nights I took in, stuff like that, it finally paid off," Hunter said.

His accolades and achievements don't stop there.

The 18-year-old is one of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's scholarship recipients.

Also, he was accepted not just into one, two or even three universities. He was accepted to 39 schools and received $3.5 million in scholarships.

"I got all these letters. Free ride here, full ride here, full ride here and all that type of stuff. I got accepted into my childhood dream school, USC. I didn't go, it's too close to home, but I still got accepted there. I accomplished that," he said.

After weighing his options, Hunter made a decision and is set to start college this week.

"Math has been my favorite subject my entire education career basically. So that's why I'll be studying mechanical engineering at Berkeley," he said.

His mother, Rodkeisha Polian, said her son's schedule was always filled with a variety of activities.

"I kept him in sports, I kept him in church, I kept him in community events," Polian said. "I always kept him busy, so he didn't have time to wander out in the streets and get into any trouble."

If Hunter wasn't busy enough, he's also launched his own clothing brand called The Legit Way.

"My whole motto is to show the youth that it's OK to do stuff good, the correct way, the legit way. You don't have to be in the streets to help your family out. Look at me. I'm going to college and I'm going to help my family out," he said.

The young entrepreneur said he's most inspired by his community and wants to give back.

"In my community, just all low income communities, we don't know what it is to build credit, how to buy a home, how to obtain a loan from the bank, anything in that sort. So I just want to teach the community that and empower my community, elevate them, help us get further than where we were," Jaden said.

He said the success he's been able to achieve is just the beginning. Once he graduates from college, he said he wants to work for NASA or SpaceX.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Aug. 16, 2022.

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