Faces of Black Excellence

18-year-old Ugandan student gets acceptance letters from 120 U.S. colleges

An 18-year-old Ugandan student who bagged a 3.94 grade point average is one of the most sought-after candidates for prestigious U.S. colleges. At least 120 schools have offered him admission, according to KTVU.

Helms Atekega, a senior at Head Royce, a private high school in Oakland, began his academic exploits when he immigrated to the U.S. from Uganda five years ago. According to him, even though he faced cultural and educational challenges because of the new environment, he credits his success to the strong support from his parents and grandparents.

“I feel very lucky that I was well-prepared. I had a wonderful guidance counselor and parents who were supportive of this whole process,” Atekega added.

Atekega and his father, Chris, celebrated a suitcase full of college acceptance letters and scholarships. But, the 18-year-old believes his accomplishment is also a result of his passion for music. He started singing at a young age and believes he draws his confidence from music.

“It gives me confidence in everything I’ve tried, in all the academic realms I’m interested in,” Atekega said. “I definitely always come back to music and singing. That’s sort of my safe haven.”

Among the acceptance letters was one from UC Berkeley, a university with special significance to Atekega’s family, as his father, Chris, is an alumnus and tech entrepreneur.

Despite this connection, Atekega’s father’s background did not influence his decision to attend the university.

“I gave him encouragement to follow his dreams, not go to Berkeley specifically,” Chris said.

The young genius plans to major in music and minor in global studies at UC Berkeley, aligning with his passion for music and his goal to positively impact the world.

As he prepares to graduate from high school on June 8, he has advised his peers to “Keep your head up, go for it, prevail, and don’t let all the noise get to you.”

A member of the Pacific Boy Choir Academy in Oakland, Atekega will travel with the choir to perform in Peru this summer and start classes at UC Berkeley in mid-August.

Stephen Nartey

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