Barstow High senior accepted to 6 Ivy League schools, including Harvard

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Monday, April 26, 2021
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Jamaal Willis is a first-generation Jamaican-American immigrant who comes from a low-income household. The 18-year-old came to the U.S. just four years ago and has defied the odds. Now, the Barstow High senior is headed to Harvard.

BARSTOW, Calif. (KABC) -- Barstow High School senior Jamaal Willis has made a lot of people proud in his High Desert community after being accepted to six Ivy League universities, most with nearly full-ride scholarships!

The 18-year-old, who excelled in AP courses, mock trial and athletics, has selected to attend his top choice, Harvard University, in the fall.

Willis recorded the moment he learned he was accepted to Harvard. The video shows the joyous occasion as Willis refreshes his status, which confirmed his acceptance with the message: "Welcome to Harvard!"

"I was just taught at a young age by my mom and grandma that education is the key to success," said Willis.

The first generation Jamaican-American immigrant comes from a low-income household. He came to the United States just four years ago and has certainly beaten the odds. At his high school, which he describes as "largely underrepresented," Willis excelled in academics and sports.

Willis tells Eyewitness News he was accepted into Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Duke, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Georgetown, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Cornell, UVA, UC San Diego, Chapman University, University of Oregon and Penn State. He was waitlisted at Yale, Brown University, University of Chicago and UCI - and was rejected admission into NYU and Northwestern.

His mom, Tanya Distant Goulbourne, said she was overwhelmed and overjoyed with the news of her son's many acceptances.

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"I'm overwhelmed, I'm overjoyed...Proud is an understatement," she said.

Goulbourne said before moving to the U.S., she had no knowledge of the college admissions process, but her son was focused.

"My hopes was that he got an opportunity to be as successful as he can be," she said.

Willis is now preparing for his move out East and knows it will be another adjustment.

MORE | Riverside student accepted to 15 schools, including 5 in Ivy League

"Everything is good except the cold, I'm not looking forward to the cold," Willis said.

He plans one day to be a civil rights litigator and to serve in public office by running for senate.

His advice for fellow students in the High Desert is to never give up.

"I just want to try and give other people hope. No matter what kind of stigma your community gets or stereotypes that people put on you, don't just sit there and take it and be a victim to all of that, a victim to society," Willis said. "Always try and follow your own path and just be who you are unapologetically."

2 Santa Ana High School students accepted to number of Ivy League schools, including Harvard