Alyssa Britton addressed her fellow St. Martin High School graduates — 279 of them — as a true trailblazer Monday night at the Coast Coliseum.
When she steps on the Harvard campus for the 2017-18 school year, she will be the first St. Martin graduate to attend that prestigious academic institution.
“There are only six of us from Mississippi (in the class of 2021),” Britton said. “Being the first there from St. Martin, I do feel the pressure. Of course, with it being an academic institution of such a high quality, I fear I won’t be able to live up to it.
“But I’ve felt that fear before. I just have to do this, give it the best shot I can.”
Never miss a local story.
Britton has been up to the challenge to this point. She has a 4.0 GPA, is a National Merit Finalist and has earned numerous academic honors during her time at St. Martin.
All of those accolades added up to a full scholarship of $239,600 to Harvard.
Though she could have chosen from a long list of top colleges, Harvard was always at the forefront.
“I looked at a project I did in my ninth-grade English class and it was a little poem and it was a list of different things about me and things I wan,” she said. “One of the things I listed was full tuition to Harvard. I found that a couple of weeks ago. Four years later, here I am.”
When she sat down for her interview, she was prepared to answer the question, “How long have you been considering Harvard?”
“I think that was the first name of a college I ever learned and I just remember saying at a very young age that’s where I want to go,” she said. “There was a point where I thought, ‘I can’t afford that.’ I did research on financial aid and scholarships and found a way I could afford it because they do have excellent financial aid programs. So eventually, I decided that I’m not going to give up on this. This what I want want.”
It was early March when her Harvard admissions officer gave her a call to tell her she had been admitted.
Britton missed the call.
She instead had to listen to a voicemail asking her to give a call back.
“I called her and I was freaking out. She didn’t pick up,” Britton said. “It was like 10 or 11 (o’clock) their time. I’m freaking out because they don’t call you for bad news, right?”
After a restless night, Britton checked her email when she sat down in her first-period class. One of the messages said, “Please check your application status.”
“I logged in and it said, ‘Congratulations, you have been admitted to the class of 2021,” she said. “I felt all the blood drain from my face.
“I started walking down the hall to the counselor and my other counselor (Missy Sherwood) said, ‘Hey, how are you this morning?’ I was just shell shocked. I looked straight at her and I said, ‘I just got into Harvard.’ It’s just surreal. I don’t know if I’m ever going to get used to it. I visited the campus and I’m still pinching myself the whole time like, ‘This is going to be me in the fall.’ It’s an almost 400-year-old institution.”
Britton plans to major in neurobiology and attend Harvard Medical School.
Valedictorian: Alyssa Jeanette Britton, daughter of Mark Britton
Salutatorian: Jenna Lynn Broadus, daughter of Jason Edward and Jessica Lynn Broadus
Class Size: 279
Principal: Dina Holland
Quote: “We’ve got a lot of great people that are going to go out in the world and do some amazing things. I can’t wait to see what they to have offer the world in a couple of years.” — Jenna Lynn Broadus, salutatorian