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Paterson high school senior reaches goal she set a decade ago -- gets accepted into Harvard

Paterson high school senior taking her 4.9 GPA to Harvard 02:04

PATERSON, N.J. -- Here's a story of a remarkable teenager. The high school senior applied to 22 colleges -- and got into 15.

But it was just one acceptance letter she was really waiting for.

CBS2's Cory James spoke to her Monday about the one acceptance that changed her life.

It was the moment Isabela Gonzalez, a senior at International High School in Paterson, was anxiously waiting in the car for -- to find out if her childhood dream was going to come true.

"I was 8 years old telling my teachers, you know, I want to go to Harvard," Gonzalez said.

But it's a moment that nearly did not happen. Late last year, fear crept in, convincing Gonzalez to tell her teacher, "I was like, 'By the way, we're not applying to Harvard.' And he was like, I'm not writing any recommendations if you don't apply to Harvard, and I'm like, 'You can't do that.' And he was like, 'Yes, I can.'"

So the 17-year-old applied and wrote an essay that she called "Taking out the Trash."

"I talked about how, you know, when you grow up in the inner city, lot of people will throw you out because they don't feel that you're good enough because they have this preconceived idea you're on the streets, or you're doing drugs, or you're not a good person," Gonzalez said.

Weeks after submitting her application, Gonzalez got a call from Harvard. The school wanted to interview her.

"It was a proud, emotional, like I said to Dr. Forfia, our principal, 'I feel like I just ran a marathon, and I didn't do anything,'" teacher Vinnie Giardina said.

But he did do something. He's the teacher Gonzalez said pushed her to apply when she tried backing out.

It was a decision that led to her being accepted by the prestigious Ivy League school.

The Garden State teenager, who has a 4.9 GPA, will become the district's 10th student to be accepted to an Ivy League university in 10 years. It's an accomplishment Gonzalez credits to her mom, a single parent raising three kids.

"She is the reason I'm here today," she said.

As for her future, Gonzalez said she wants major in political science and has lofty ambitions.

"I want to be president of the United States one day, yes. So, 2034," she said.

And her teacher?

"I just want a cabinet position," Vinnie Giardina said with a laugh.

Gonzalez will head to Harvard in August on a full-ride scholarship. 

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