Eboni Boykin spent most of her childhood in and out of homeless shelters but now the St. Louis teen has found a home on the campus of Columbia University as she’ll be attending the Ivy League school on a full four-year scholarship this fall.
Bouncing from home to home and shelter to shelter, Eboni has attended more schools than she can recall, most of them in urban areas with not much focus on academics or helping kids get to college, much less an Ivy League school. But Eboni has been self-motivated since the age of 13 to make it where she’s going after watching Rory on “Gilmore Girls” attend Yale. Her surroundings were also a heavy influence toward reaching her goal.
“Seeing the absolute worst of life is the ultimate motivation,” she told STL Today.
As a student at Normandy High school, the 17-year-old is one of about 25 honor students in the entire school which has a dropout rate in the double digits. Last year, 74 percent of students there failed the state’s English 2 exam, and 83 percent failed the math exam. Though Eboni’s mother is supportive of her dreams, as a high school dropout she hasn’t always been able to relate to her daughter’s goals. Eboni first attended Normandy as an eighth-grader but felt the school held her back. She then moved to Mississippi to live with her grandparents and attend a better school but after one year she missed her mother so she decided to return to Normandy her sophomore year. Though the high school is struggling to keep is accreditation, Eboni met her own goals. She scored a 27 on her ACT, when the average composite score at Normandy High last year was a 16. According to the school district, no one has ever scored higher than a 27 at the high school.
After attending a journalism program at Princeton University last summer, Ebony decided on a major and a college—Columbia to pursue a journalism degree. Eboni applied and waited, then on Dec. 8, she logged on to the university’s website to view its acceptance and rejection letters for early admissions. She pulled up the letter addressed to her and it began with “Congratulations!” then she found another notice saying all expenses were paid.
Although Eboni’s ACT score was high for her high school, it’s on the lower end of Columbia’s incoming class. The teen said now that she knows where she’s going she’s trying to prepare for challenging academics, though she figures it can’t be harder than what she’s already overcome.
“I expect to be around really, really smart people. People with a strong presence about them. When you think about the people who went to Columbia — like Madeleine Albright, Barack Obama, Ben Jealous — you think of real pioneers,” she said. “I expect to be around that. I’m excited.”
Eboni’s definitely already a pioneer for her hometown and especially her school.