Rotimi Kukoyi, an Alabama teenager, has gained admission to 15 schools and received $2 million in scholarships. According to ABC News, the universities that accepted the brilliant teen include Harvard, Stanford, Yale, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Virginia.
In an interview with the news outlet, the high school senior said his decision to apply to multiple schools was inspired by his appearance on the “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament during his freshman year in 2018.
“It was really fun experience but also put me in contact with some pretty cool students from across the country,” Kukoyi, who was also his school’s first Black National Merit Scholar, said. “A lot of them are older and they’re like seniors or juniors that applied to many prestigious schools a lot of them are attending prestigious universities now. So that was kind of my original inspiration to apply to those universities.”
And though Kukoyi was spoiled for choice, he ultimately decided to enroll at UNC Chapel Hill on the educational institution’s Morehead-Cain Scholarship program. The Morehead-Cain is the first merit scholarship program in the United States.
The teen also said he hopes to enter the public health sector after school, adding that the pandemic and his involvement with the Alabama Department of Health during its vaccination drive inspired his decision.
“COVID really sparked [my interest in public health] because that was the first time that I really saw how clear the health inequities were,” Kukoyi said. “African Americans had a much higher chance of dying from COVID than white Americans … it was almost like there were two separate pandemics impacting our nation, and we saw [some people] marginalized and impacted way more.”
And though the teen is getting ready for college, Kukoyi said he hopes to inspire fellow students to seek admission into schools that probably weren’t under their consideration. “A lot of kids that I talked to didn’t think they could apply to the bigger schools or get into the bigger schools” or had reservations about the cost involved, Kukoyi told ABC News.
“… A lot of those more competitive schools offer much more extensive financial aid than state schools,”
As his school class’s only Black student, Kukoyi said he hopes to bring about changes to ensure marginalized people and students with financial constraints are afforded the same educational opportunities as others. The teen has collaborated with other National Merit finalists to offer free tutoring for people who desire additional academic help as well as students who want to undertake the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
“… I feel like a lot of the disparities that we see with standardized testing are because these underrepresented minorities in low income communities often can’t afford the same levels of [test preparation] that that their wealthier counterparts get,” said Kukoyi. “So by establishing free tutoring programs, that could kind of help to equalize the playing field.”