Watch CBS News

San Bernardino high schooler headed to Harvard after acceptance to dozens of universities

San Bernardino high schooler headed to Harvard after getting into more than 30 schools
San Bernardino high schooler headed to Harvard after getting into more than 30 schools 03:23

As thousands of high schoolers prepare to graduate and move on to college, one San Bernardino student has made her dream come true after accepting an offer to one of the nation's most prestigious universities. 

Silvana Vazquez, currently a senior at San Gorgonio High School, was accepted to more than 30 different schools before she was accepted to Harvard University. 

Despite all of her hard work over the last four years, she's still shocked that she beat the odds in the extremely competitive admissions process. 

"I at first though it was such a long shot, but the first one for me was Harvard," Vazquez said. "That has been my dream school for seven years — since fifth grade — I just knew I had to put that on the top of my list."

That list was quite lengthy, as she applied to 41 schools overall and was accepted to 32. Some other options included the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Notre Dame and UCLA.

Still, she didn't think her dreams were practical, as less than 2,000 of the more than 50,000 were accepted into this year's freshman class.

"I didn't think it was a realistic option because I tend to compare myself with other students. ... I mean, I met someone who owned their own foundation or their own nonprofit," Vazquez explained. 

Even with the doubt clouding what became reality, people who knew her said it's not a surprise at all. 

"I felt she was deserving, and if anyone could have done it, she would have been that person," said Diane Dawson, who teaches history at SGHS. 

She says that to her knowledge, no other San Gorgonio student has gotten into Harvard. The school is located in an underserved community of San Bernardino, where 88% of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Nearly a quarter of San Bernardino City Unified School District students fall below the poverty line, and 20% are English language learners, meaning they have to take special classes because they aren't proficient in English. Vazquez was once in the same boat. 

"When I entered kindergarten, I knew very little English but I made sure to put in my effort to learn" she said, noting that she took those classes until she got into 4th grade and tested into the district's regular curriculum. "They would pull me out and have me speak English and learn more English. I'm grateful I had to do it early."

Now, she's the school valedictorian after ranking first in her class with a 4.87 GPA and will become the first member of her family to go to college, all on a full ride scholarship. She credits her passion for learning to her parents. 

"They always told me it doesn't matter where you go, we'll always be proud of wherever you go as long as we see you thrive in education," she said. "What I believe got me into Harvard was my passion to serve my community. What I wore in the short essays to Harvard was how passionate I am to be able to serve and represent the impoverished communities of San Bernardino and my school."

Part of that passion comes from watching her father's dedication to his family. 

"My dad works at a gas station, he provides a lot for the family," Vazquez said. "He wakes up at four in the morning, comes back at four p.m., because he's done a lot to give me and my siblings a lot."

Vazquez will graduate next week with honors and a future as bright as she chooses to make it.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.