Teenager Goes From Homeless to Harvard—It All Started With One Lie

May 28, 2018 Updated: September 27, 2018

A teenager who went from being homeless to Harvard on a full scholarship said that a big turning point came in sixth grade after he lied to a friend to avoid admitting that he was staying in a homeless shelter.

“That’s when I realized I’ve got to buckle in because I can’t have my potential kids going through what I’m going through now,” Richard Jenkins told WHYY.

Jenkins, 18, later moved out of the shelter but starting in eighth grade, he suffered from migraines that would leave him hospitalized for weeks at a time. Still, he was able to maintain an “A” average.

Another challenge Jenkins faced? Bullies. They used to taunt him with the moniker “Harvard,” referring to how he was a bookworm.

Jenkins told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he and his family didn’t always have a lot to eat, with he and his siblings often eating only half of a TV dinner each night.

Jenkins chose to escape reality through books, starting with “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Jenkins, who will receive a full scholarship to Harvard, said books and staying focused on school helped him through his rough childhood.

“Stay focused and on the right track,” he said when asked for advice he’d give kids going through situations like we went through.

“The right track can be different for a lot of people but basically what you want to work toward, you need to be focused on that.”


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