North High School Senior Reflects on His Journey

Over the summer, North High School student Rico Givens-Padilla took an introduction to criminal law class through Harvard University. For the first time in his academic career, he had a black instructor. This left a lasting impact on Rico. “I was surrounded by hardworking and brilliant students, empowered by the school’s resources, and challenged by an instructor who looked like me.” For Rico, his next steps where clear—applying for and enrolling at Harvard University.

“I picked Harvard because I was drawn by the people that I met and how the university can help me make change for communities of color.” This January, he found out that he made it in, and his DSF College Advisor Ms. Sierra and the entire DSF staff couldn’t be more excited for him!

Thanking his support system and role models

Rico’s worldview has been shaped by his family and the people he has met throughout his life. He grew up with his mom and sister as role models. Everyone in his household was always pushing for something better, and he quickly realized that is what he needed to do to be successful, especially academically. “It is important to acknowledge that my support system has been a major factor in my achievements. My mom and sister were always there for me when I faced something difficult or needed to ask for help.”

An unforgettable trip to India Rico on a trip to India, his high school highlight!

During the summer between his sophomore and junior year of high school, he took a trip to India thanks to a program called 360 Plus. There were 40 students from nine countries on the trip, with only 20 students from the United States. “This is a highlight of my high school experience because I had the opportunity to get to know kids from other cultures, even around the United States. We had deep conversations about politics, the LGBTQ community, and I learned about diverse worldviews outside my community.” This trip solidified his passion for politics and law, leading him to pursue an ambitious curriculum at Harvard University. He declared a Government concentration with an emphasis on Political Science and a double minor in African American and Latino Studies.

Anticipating his new life at Harvard University

“I’m nervous about burnout, but I am looking forward to learning from my professors who are leading experts in their fields. I’m also excited to make friends from around the world and to live in a major city,” says Rico when anticipating his new life in Cambridge. He is passionate about making a difference in his community and believes that pursuing a career in criminal law will allow him to create lasting change in the injustices he sees and hears about every day.

“My biggest advice to high school students wanting to attend a highly selective college or university is find your passion. Working towards something you are passionate about is energizing and colleges will see your work as a reflection of your genuineness.”