Harvard Bound: Michigan teen challenges affirmative action asssumptions with perfection and unwavering determination

In the academically rich corridors of Groves High School emerges a young woman whose journey paints a vivid tapestry of passion, resilience, and purpose. Ciera Green, with her perfect 4.0 GPA, is not just another high school graduate; she’s a testament to the power of determination and dreams, poised to walk the hallowed halls of Harvard University this fall.

“I am very excited about having the opportunity to go to Harvard. I resent when people imply that I was only admitted because I am Black, because it feels like they are overlooking the work I have put in to be a successful, involved student in my community,” said Green.

“This is something that Black students often experience, specifically relating to affirmative action. I feel that my race is not what earned my admission into the university. If I were any other ethnicity, I feel that I would have still been able to be admitted. However, being a young Black woman that will be attending Harvard in the fall I do feel that I am leading as an example for my community and proving that it is possible.”

Harvard’s recent stand on the elimination of affirmative action has been a topic of intense debate and discussion. Historically, affirmative action was initiated to address the inequalities faced by marginalized communities in education and employment. Harvard, however, has sought to emphasize individual merit over systemic interventions, aspiring to create an environment where each student’s achievements shine on their own. Contrarily, the university has in fact opted to continue legacy applicants.

Moreover, against this backdrop, Green’s entry into Harvard bears testament to her undeniable talent. Clear in her convictions, she voices a firm belief: her placement at this elite institution is the result of her unwavering dedication, not a predetermined quota.

 

But sometimes, life has other plans.

The emblematic crimson ‘H’ of Harvard began to resonate with Green, not as a mere brand but as a beacon. It doesn’t go without notice that this institution lacks the quintessential HBCU experience she had initially sought. No Greek organizations. No HBCU flavored marching bands. A clear scarcity in representation of Black culture. But, in Harvard, she saw a challenge; an opportunity to dive deep into a global realm of opportunities.

 

At the heart of her Harvard decision is a deeper calling with her eyes set on the vast domain of medicine. Green’s academic pursuits in medicine stem from a profound interest in the social determinants of health, accentuated by her personal experiences and family history. It’s personal. It’s profound. The disturbing data – Black children’s death rates from asthma standing 700%-800% higher than their White peers – isn’t just a statistic to Green; it’s a clarion call. She wishes to immerse herself into understanding these systemic disparities, all with the goal of championing change in the medical field.

“My greatest hope as I enter my freshman year and begin my journey through Harvard is to make meaningful connections,” said Green. “Harvard is the oldest university in the country, and it has an unmatched global reputation for excellence.”

Beyond the confines of textbooks and research, dance has been Green’s heart song. From the Debbie Allen Dance Academy to countless dance competitions, she transformed her passion into a purpose, garnering numerous accolades along the way. The rich tapestry of her dance journey finds its roots in Legacy Dance Studio, which emphasized the beauty and history of African American dance.

“Being a Black, classically trained dancer allowed me to realize there is so much power in our blackness,” she said. “One of my dance teachers drilled into my head that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. I have relied on that mantra many times when I felt discouraged or frustrated that I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted from myself.”

Yet, there’s another unexpected feather in Green’s cap — golf. Her narrative with the Midnight Golf Program (MGP) is both enchanting and enlightening. With 300 hours to her credit, her MGP journey is not just about perfecting a swing, but honing leadership, imbibing community values, and gearing up for college life. The Midnight Golf Program sculpted her in ways beyond the greens of golf courses. Under the tutelage of seasoned mentors, Green’s transformation from a self-proclaimed ‘worst golfer’ to an enthusiast encapsulates her tenacity.

Every rising star has its moments of doubt. For Green, it was the battles within—overcoming the lurking shadows of imposter syndrome and self-doubt. These internal adversities, however, only fortified her resolve. Besides, no journey is devoid of internal battles.

“My greatest obstacle has been self-doubt and the feeling of imposter syndrome, especially as I’m entering this next chapter in my life,” Green shared.

“College in general is very different from high school, and with me going to an ivy league school I often question my place at the university. Whether I’m smart enough, if I’ll make it through pre-med, if someone else should’ve been admitted over me, etc. Recently, the mantra ‘everything happens for a reason’ has been repeating in my head, because this is a principle my mother always told me. I have to realize that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m my biggest critic so it’s about changing my mindset.”

Yet, the lessons she learned, especially from her time dancing, have empowered her to challenge and overcome these internal adversaries. And through every trial, her mother has been her beacon, her grounding force.

“Though it’s cliche, I have to say my mom is my anchor,” said Green. “She’s been my rock since day 1. She’s always led by example and shown me the importance of accomplishing goals no matter how long it may take. Anytime I’m stressed or doubting myself she provides reassurance and brings me back to reality. Especially during senior year when there was a lot of uncertainty, whether it was about colleges or scholarships, she was a really important person to have by my side supporting me.”

Now, as she sets foot in Massachusetts, transitioning from Michigan, it’s not just about a new phase of academic life. It’s about continuing a journey that has been rich in experiences, inspirations, and dreams. Holding close to her heart the lessons from her mother, Green’s Harvard journey promises to be nothing short of legendary. In the Class of 2027, among many luminaries, Ciera Green is sure to shine the brightest.

“I’m very excited. Boston is a very different city than the metro Detroit area so I’m excited to get out into this new space and be able to grow and create new memories,” Green shared. “I really want to make sure I get the most out of my time at Harvard, I don’t want to feel like I missed any opportunities or have any regrets. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for me.”

 

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