HENDERSON — Two members of Henderson Collegiate’s 2021 graduating class in Garland Catlette and Emily Garcia were accepted into the Ivy League schools of Harvard University and Princeton University, respectively.
Principal Taro Shigenobu said that Henderson Collegiate has always prided itself on setting up students for life after high school and commended Catlette and Garcia for showcasing the commitment and passion necessary to attend college at prestigious universities.
“The entire school as a whole is so proud of Garland and Emily,” Shigenobu said. “We don’t really talk about high school graduation because that’s something we don’t care as much about. We always focus on college graduation and college acceptance because that’s the mission of this school.”
Shigenobu said that the accomplishments of Catlette, Garcia and other alumni at Henderson Collegiate proves that the brightest minds can come from anywhere in the United States regardless of their background and socioeconomic status.
Shigenobu added that even though Catlette and Garcia are two of the strongest students at the school, they are never content with their current performance and are always seeking out guidance and pushing themselves inside the classroom to improve their respective grade point averages.
Catlette’s efficiency helped him become the senior class vice president but he has also done everything possible to have an active presence inside his school’s community, which included working four years as a manager for the Henderson Collegiate men’s varsity basketball team.
Having been a student at Henderson Collegiate since the fourth grade, Catlette knew that he faced high expectations to perform every day but he credited the staff at the school for motivating him to become a much better person overall.
“I had to be stellar inside and outside the classroom,” Catlette said. “I’ve had good grades my entire life but I had to grow into that potential. I wasn’t the most well-behaved student when I got to Henderson Collegiate. The grades were there but I needed to pick up the slack and Henderson Collegiate really helped me develop as a person.”
Garcia only arrived at Henderson Collegiate in the ninth grade and admitted that the first weeks inside the building came as a culture shock to her. Like Catlette, she said that the environment at Henderson Collegiate galvanized her to work harder and she still can not believe that the past four years have rewarded her with being accepted to Princeton.
“Honestly, this feels unreal,” Garcia said. “I wake up and I still think about getting accepted into Princeton because I never thought I would have been good enough. I keep thinking that this is going to get snatched from me at any moment but I just feel really proud of all my accomplishments.”
Garcia, who was also accepted by Davidson College, has worked hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA and score As in all of her classes but she admitted that distinguishing herself from other applicants in writing essays helped play a crucial role in her being accepted to Princeton.
Garcia said that college counseling at Henderson Collegiate helped stress the importance of those essays, adding that she once stayed up until 3 a.m. alongside the school’s associate director of college counseling in Theresa O’Donnell perfecting essays before a specific deadline.
The amount of resources and sacrifices teachers have made for students like Garcia is something that will stick with her long after she leaves Henderson Collegiate and she intends to use the same amount of compassion and dedication as she pursues a career in biology.
“Being here in general has taught me more about how people can be so supportive of each other,” Garcia said. “You don’t really have that in a public school because everyone kind of fends for themselves. Coming here, I learned that there are teachers that care about your success and are willing to be your friends.”
Catlette wants to have a career in computer science and economics but has not yet decided if he wants to chase that passion at Harvard or enroll at one of the other two schools that have accepted him in the Georgia Institute of Technology or Stanford University.
Regardless of where he ends up taking classes after graduation, Catlette said that he will forever be thankful for the amount of support Henderson Collegiate has offered since his childhood and is ready to properly utilize his knowledge to positively impact the world in his own way.
“Having this opportunity is so surreal, especially given my background as a young African-American male from a low income community,” Catlette said. “Most of my peers that drop out of high school are at risk of getting involved in gang violence, so I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be where I’m at right now.”
Catlette and Garcia have until May 1 to decide which school they will attend starting in the fall but Shigenobu does not doubt that the two will find success regardless of which school they pick or what field they pursue.
“Emily and Garland can do whatever they want,” Shigenobu said. “They are two amazing students that have proved that anything is possible. They have lived the mission of Henderson Collegiate but both of them are very good people. Wherever they choose to go, they are going to be huge players on their campus and once they leave, I truly believe they are going to change the world.”