Kaysia Harrington may have been accepted to one of the nation’s most elite schools, but the senior at Owensboro High School has goals far beyond college. Leaning on her own experiences, she wants to eventually start an organization focused on education equity.
Harrington was recently accepted to Harvard University, though she’s still leaving her options open and hoping to hear from other prestigious schools.
“It was very surreal,” she said of opening the acceptance letter. “I was with my best friend and my mom, and I just started crying tears of happiness. It was truly a dream come true. … Ever since I was a child, it’s always been a goal to go to some type of elite school that has a lot of resources. I’ve always been really dedicated to academia and very involved.”
Harrington’s concentration will be history and literature, with an emphasis on education studies.
At OHS, Harrington was elected as the Student Body President, has a perfect 4.0 GPA, and has scored a 5 (the highest possible score) on all of the AP Exams she has taken. She will be the first OHS graduate to be accepted to Harvard since 1998.
“I think my achievements should be used as an example,” Harrington said. “This shows what happens whenever you invest in students who typically don’t get that many resources. Right now as we’re focusing on justice and equity, I think we should place a focus on the education system, and ensure that everyone has the resources that I was lucky enough to get, not ensured to get.”
That’s a big reason she has a long-term vision of creating lasting change in education equity.
Though she said OHS teachers Daniel Brown and the late Stephen Schwartz were big influences within the school system, Harrington credited the majority of her successes to her own work ethic and the community that supported her along the way.
In addition to her mother Rebel, Harrington said the H.L. Neblett Community and Brionna Greer’s Breaking the Cycle mentor program, as well as Olga McKissic and Leigh Jackson, helped provide resources and made her achievements possible.
“Programs that were focused on addressing things through a direct and holistic way are the ones that impacted me the most,” she said.
She wants to pay it all forward.
“I plan on making an organization that helps schools that deal with issues like those present at Owensboro Public Schools and so many throughout the nation,” she said. “I want to pursue education equity and create a more decolonized curriculum … and an overall more empowering environment for every student, not the advantaged students.”
Harrington also said she thinks teachers should give students a chance to be ambitious, to reach for the stars.
She also addressed certain stigmas surrounding some of the predominantly Black neighborhoods in Owensboro.
“This narrative that Baptown and Mechanicsville are dangerous places with students and kids who don’t care about their future is very deleterious and harmful. It’s completely untrue,” Harrington said. “The students that I’ve met and my peers who haven’t had the chance to get where I am, who have faced either death or incarceration or just don’t have a future, it’s not because they don’t have one. It’s because nobody truly cared about them. You can’t expect (them) to care about education if education doesn’t care about them. You can’t expect them to care about the city if the city constantly neglects the issues that they’re going through.”
So, she’s hoping to be a shining example, encouraging other students to take full advantage of any opportunities and resources that are presented to them.
“I’ve been able to be in these AP classes where we get so many resources and we get this empowering curriculum,” she said. “It’s an empowering environment.”