Making the grade: These Bronx students get accepted to Yale University

Mariama Sow of KIPP who is going to Yale.
Photos courtesy of KIPP

Two students from KIPP College Prep High School in the Bronx, who are both the first generation in their family to attend college, were recently accepted early decision to Yale University.

Stacey Lopez immigrated to the Bronx with her family from the Dominican Republic at 9-years- old and only spoke Spanish when she began attending KIPP. Despite the language barrier, she excelled in her studies and got a full scholarship to her dream college.

“This still feels surreal,” she told the Bronx Times. “If you told my younger self a few years ago I would be going to Yale I would say no way. All my hard work and dedication has paid off.”

Lopez’s path to higher education was not easy.

When she first arrived in America it was a major culture shock. The big buildings, bright lights and fast pace was scary, she recalled.

“I was definitely terrified,” she said. “I didn’t know much English at the time.”

She originally moved to Manhattan with her mom and three siblings, but in sixth grade relocated to Riverdale. Everything became easy when she enrolled at KIPP.

“KIPP offered more support than my other school and I was able to pick up the pace and learn more,” she explained. “I was definitely more comfortable at KIPP.”

According to Lopez, the teachers are welcoming and made her feel at home. The past four years have helped her realize she wanted to go to college and was ready for the next chapter in life.

She is involved with the dance team at school and a member of  LEDA (Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America) and an organization called Matriculate.

With the help of her college counselor, Ms. Lloyd , she zeroed in on Yale with hopes becoming a doctor. Lopez was looking at several small liberal art schools, but before COVID-19 arrived she visited Yale and fell in love with the campus.

Lopez told the Bronx Times she would not have gotten this far without the guidance of her mom. While working as a home health aide, she also raised four kids.

“She was definitely a major motivation for me behind my school work and college applications,” Lopez stressed.

The teen noted that if she didn’t get into Yale she wasn’t going to tell anyone she applied. Fortunately, things worked out.

“I remember the same day I opened my acceptance letter I saw the screen and it said welcome Yale Class of 2025 and I was shocked for milli-second and I was like is this for real and iwas crying,” she recalled.

Her classmate, Mariama Sow has a heartwarming story as well.

Sow’s parents Halimatou and Ousmane emigrated from Guinea in West Africa to the Bronx, where she was born. They struggled at first, but today own a store in the neighborhood.

Raised in a two bedroom apartment with five siblings in Melrose, nothing has been easy for Sow. But her mom and dad made sure Sow kept her head on a swivel and she did well in school.

It was at KIPP where she found her second home and saw the potential for more.

“Going to KIPP has brought me a lot of opportunities,” she stated.

Stacey Lopez who is going to Yale.

Her days are filled with extracurricular activities, as she is captain of two dance teams, involved in social activism at KIPP, plays violin in the orchestra and volunteers with Robin Hood.

Sow visited Yale her freshman and eventually realized it was the place for her. However, she kept it a secret from her parents that she applied.

She was accepted Dec. 16, 2020, the day before her birthday.

“I feel like if I told my parents and I didn’t get in I would have failed them,” she explained. “I feel like they were really proud. It’s an accomplishment that not a lot of people are able to experience. My acceptance was everybody’s acceptance.

Sow plans to study women’s, gender, and sexuality studies as well as race, ethnicity, and migration and eventually become a lawyer.

“I just can’t wait to tackle what’s coming,” she stressed.