The unsolicited letter from Harvard invited this future teacher of America to apply. That wasn’t the first, or the last, inference that something special was going on. Perhaps, after 50 years in the objective business of reporting the news, the Examiner had, as he approached the age of 80, missed something right under his nose. The subject person of this story had caught the attention of the local librarian long ago, at age five or six, when she received a certificate for having read more than 2,000 books in one year.
Her contribution to contemporary literature came later. She fashioned an essay about her third grade teacher’s influence; that he’d encouraged her to read and to write. The essay won a $1,620.00 scholarship to Washington, DC, sponsored by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council. As she boarded a plane at age 12, a tag pinned to her shirt promising she’d be met in DC, the scholarship announcement echoed in per parents’ minds: “Your outstanding record of academic achievements and extracurricular involvement . . .”
At age 10, she had launched a campaign at school to raise money for the victims of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. She’d witnessed the Dec. 26 devastation on TV while spending Christmas at her grandparents’ home in Mexico City. The first thing she did on returning home was organize her schoolmates. The money went to the Red Cross.
About those academic achievements: current 4.232 grade point average that goes back to the sixth grade when testing concluded she was “gifted” in math, science and reading.
How that record came to Harvard’s attention is in itself academic. Like many high school seniors, she has been inundated with more than 50 pounds of invitations from an assortment of colleges that ranges from Hawaii to London. In her junior year she had served as student body president at her alternative high school, the Early College Academy. It’s a public school designed to prepare kids who definitely want to move on to a university level education. Again, a tsunami hit this year, and she created a campaign at school that raised relief money for the Red Cross to help Japan.
Is she a complete nerd? Hardly, she performs hot yoga three times a week and on weekends plays on an adult soccer team. She has had a summer job at a day care center for several years. She’s fluent in Spanish.
In the spring of 2009, at age 14, she presented a bold plan to her academic counselors and her parents. “I know what I want to do and I know how to do it,” she said. “I want to be a teacher. I think I love teaching. Here’s my plan:”
She would enroll that summer in Central New Mexico Community College while working part-time at the day care place. Her counselors were amazed; her parents stunned. She’s just like many other teenagers with their ups and downs, but . . .
In December 2011 she will receive her two-year Associates Degree in Secondary Education and plans to enroll at the University of New Mexico as a junior in the autumn of 2012, with a scholarship, of course. Her GPA hovers in the 4.232 realm. And what’s next? “I love teaching. I want to get a Ph.D. in psychology; make me a better teacher. But first I want to spend a semester abroad as an exchange student. Maybe Australia, or who knows, someplace in Europe. To learn about the world you need to see it yourself.”
Although she will already possess her Associates Degree in Secondary Education, she won’t graduate from high school until May 2012. Her counselors point out that she’s the only student to accomplish that.
The fact is that Katherine Kelton, age 17 of Albuquerque, NM, is the daughter of the Examiner, but that has nothing to do with this story. It’s all Katherine, an outstanding youth who indeed should “Inspire America.”
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