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How The Son Of African Immigrants Won The Race To The Ivy League

Apr 5 2014, 9:44am CDT | by

By Julie Lythcott-Haims My heart aches for Kwasi Enin, the Long Island child of Ghanaian immigrants who earned a spot at all eight Ivy League schools - a truly astonishing feat of college admission...

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15 weeks ago

How The Son Of African Immigrants Won The Race To The Ivy League

Apr 5 2014, 9:44am CDT | by

By Julie Lythcott-Haims

My heart aches for Kwasi Enin, the Long Island child of Ghanaian immigrants who earned a spot at all eight Ivy League schools - a truly astonishing feat of college admission, and perhaps unprecedented. His qualifications are irrefutable: 2250 on the SAT (99th percentile), straight-A average, 11 advanced-placement courses, excellence in music, athletics, and leadership, and a beautiful common app essay using music as a motif.

In this era of hyper-competition over college admission some of us want a Kwasi-template to apply to our own kid, preferably starting at age two. What preschool did Kwasi attend, anyway? Which summer camp? Kwasi’s success both begs and answers the question, how did this happen?

Ask Kwasi how it happened, and he’ll credit his so-called “helicopter parents” with a fierce determination about education and achievement that characterizes not only West Africans but other immigrants to this country. I haven’t met the kid or his parents for that matter, but from what I’ve gleaned, Kwasi misunderstands the term.

Helicopter parents are those who do too much for their kids, which at a minimum results in a lack of basic life skills and can lead to crippling psychological harm. That’s clearly not Kwasi. Also included in the definition are parents who force their kids to study certain things and pursue a narrow set of activities, and there’s some indication that Kwasi’s parents may done that.

But here’s the nuance: Instilling a strong work ethic and setting high standards is good parenting. Pushing a kid to be the best at what the kid loves and has talent for: that’s good parenting too. But when a parent pushes a kid toward what the parent thinks is best or because it sates the parent’s ego – even when the kid has no inherent interest or talent – that’s helicopter parenting. From the interviews it’s clear Kwasi knows himself, likes himself, loves what he is doing, and enjoys pushing himself to excel. This, in the end, is what made the admissions difference .

Some people are asking not, how did this happen? But rather, how did this happen (to him?). Those who think this way may see black and brown people at best as undeserving recipients of handouts and setasides, at worst as thugs to be feared when walking down the street.

Some will say I’m “playing the race card” by raising this. Some are blind to their own race card – their access to legacy admission, as well as the very best schools, tutoring, college counselors, and test preparation assistance. Even in the face of objectively outstanding accomplishment like Kwasi’s, the American nightmare of race and status invades the  American Dream.

I’ve experienced that nightmare. I, too, was a black kid who got into some top schools, and I attended one of them – Stanford – and went on to achieve a good measure of success in my professional life. But knowing that some people believed I was only where I was because of my race, I felt the need to constantly prove myself, to be better in order to be seen simply as good enough. It felt like a footpressing down on my neck; it affected how I spoke and responded to many a question. At times it was so oppressive I couldn’t breathe. It took me the better part of my 46 years to get over it.

This is partly why my heart aches for Kwasi. The remainder of my ache comes from having a black son. When I heard about Kwasi I raised my fists in triumph over what it took for Kwasi and the Enins to get to this point, for how wonderful it is within our uniquely American context to see a young black man in the news for his astonishing intellectual achievement instead of for being on the wrong side of a gun.

And how unusual. There are plenty more highly accomplished black and brown boys in our nation, and we should absolutely celebrate them and offer opportunity to those who have the potential.

I replayed Kwasi’s CNN interview more than a dozen times, enjoying his earnest voice, his humble words, his unassuming demeanor. In it he tells the reporter, “Knowing that I’m going to have a happy day because of the things I’m doing in this day, because I love doing all of them… that’s what really pushes me.” I sit back, satisfied, with a smile. For Kwasi, for America, and for me.

Julie Lythcott-Haims is the former dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University , is currently pursuing a MFA degree in creative writing, and is the author of a forthcoming book on the perils of helicopter parenting (Holt, 2015). For more go to Facebook.com/deanjulie

 
Update
10

6 weeks ago

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Jun 9 2014 7:54am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Cambodia's Famous Battambang Circus
KUALA LUMPUR: About RM47 million of contributions in the Teachers Provident Fund (KWSG) still remain unclaimed, the Dewan Rakyat w ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
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6 weeks ago

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Federal Aviation Administration Bans All US Flights To Israel
KUALA LUMPUR: AN emergency motion to debate the losses incurred by Malaysia Airlines last year, amounting to RM1.2 billion was rejected by the De ...
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Update
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6 weeks ago

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Jun 9 2014 2:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spent some RM27.6 million in its first phase of the search operations for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, said Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hi ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
6

6 weeks ago

9.1m litres of diesel seized in a month

Jun 8 2014 1:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

INDIA-CHINA-DIPLOMACY-TRADE
PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism ministry has seized some 9.1 million litres of diesel and property worth RM58 million since mounting ‘Operasi Diesel Selatan’ in the southern states ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
5

6 weeks ago

Girl, 9, awarded RM2.78m compensation for medical negligence

Jun 6 2014 4:56am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Government Weekly Cabinet Meeting
KUALA LUMPUR: A nine-year-old girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at a government hospital was awarded over RM2.78 milli ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
4

6 weeks ago

Malaysia's total trade in April up 12pc

Jun 5 2014 11:52pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's total trade in April 2014 rose by 12 per cent from a year ago to RM123.86 billion due to growing trading activities, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Moh ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
3

6 weeks ago

Works Ministry to spend RM20m for upgrading works at 50 accident black spots

Jun 4 2014 11:35pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

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JOHOR BARU: The Works Ministry will implement upgrading works at 50 accident prone locations in the country that have been identified this year involving an alloc ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
2

6 weeks ago

Najib launches loan scheme for Ramadan traders

Jun 4 2014 10:24pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM - Day One
PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launches RM45 million Ramadan Baz ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
1

6 weeks ago

Residents bring up objection against Kidex to Suhakam

Jun 4 2014 4:49am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of 20 Petaling Jaya residents held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) over their objection against the proposed RM2.2 billion Kinrara Damansara Skyway (Kidex) today ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 

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