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Student stokes family pride with full ride to Harvard

Cindy Kang, 19, is fulfilling the dreams her parents had when they immigrated here from Korea seven years ago.

Kang, a senior who will graduate from Decatur High School on June 8, earned admission and a full four-year scholarship to Harvard University, where she will begin classes in the fall.

“It was my dream school, but I never thought I’d be able to get in,” Kang said. “I was so surprised at first. I didn’t believe it.”

When she first learned she was accepted to Harvard, Kang thought it was a practical joke. It was April Fool’s Day, after all. She was getting her hair done and while at the salon, she asked her friend Jasleen to check her e-mail for a letter from Harvard. Jasleen delivered the news — there was an acceptance letter from the Ivy League school in Kang’s inbox.

“I had to rush out of the hair salon to get home and check my e-mail,” Kang said.

Sure enough, the letter from Harvard was there.

“I was just frozen at my computer and my mom was crying, but I couldn’t think,” she said.

Kang always knew she wanted to get into a prestigious college. She took several Advanced Placement courses and passed the tests. She thinks that Harvard accepted her because of her math skills and her involvement in extracurricular activities. During high school, Kang participated in drill team, varsity tennis, math team, Key Club and Advancing Youth Leadership. She estimates she did at least three hours of homework each night. She will graduate with a 3.91 grade point average.

Kang is also a national math champion. She has participated in math teams and contests with the Korean American Scientists and Engineers Association since fifth grade. This year she took first place. She also took 18th place in a national contest that was open to all U.S. students.

Kang said she is sad to leave behind her high school friends and her family, but she is excited about the independence and challenges she will have at the college in Massachusetts.

“I’m nervous because their academic program is really rigorous, but just the change itself is going to be really big, I think,” she said.

This will be Kang’s first time away from home. She hopes to get a roommate she will get along with.

“I just want someone who’s not so messy but not so neat because I want to be able to keep up with it, and I don’t want to make her mad,” she said.

At Harvard, Kang plans to earn a double major in applied math and economics — and dreams of someday working on Wall Street.

Contact Margo Hoffman: mhoffman@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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