CONROE, Texas - She was born facing great odds, entering into the world in a jail. And now she’s ready to embark on her dream to attend Harvard University.
On Thursday, Aurora Sky Castner graduated from Conroe High School in the Greater Houston area of Texas with top honors. The 18-year-old, draped with a stole and cords marking outstanding academic performance, walked across the stage to receive her diploma to cheers when her name was called.
Aurora Sky Castner graduated on Thursday, May 25, 2023 from Conroe High School in Conroe, Texas. (Conroe High School/Conroe Independent School District)
Her journey here has been a remarkable one, as she’s being celebrated for her hard work and success, despite the odds she faced from the day she was born.
Her mother delivered her while serving time in the Galveston County Jail. Her father brought her home from the jail and raised her as a single parent, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Even in her younger years, she stood out as an exceptional student. She was identified as a good candidate for the Conroe Independent School District’s (ISD) Project Mentor program. The program worked to connect students with mentors in the community to help "promote positive youth development so that students can successfully navigate school and life," Project Mentor's website said.
Castner was matched up with Mona Hamby.
"I was given a paper about her. Her hero was Rosa Parks, her favorite food was tacos from Dairy Queen, and she loved to read. I thought this sounds like a bright little girl," Hamby told the Houston Chronicle. "I still have that paper today."
Over the years, Hamby has remained among Castner’s biggest cheerleaders and supporters and even traveled with her to tour Harvard last year.
In the teen's essay as part of her application to the Ivy League, she no doubt caught the attention of Harvard's college admissions officials with her powerful opening line.
It began with the statement: "I was born in prison."
Castner's impressive story and high marks in school landed her an offer through Harvard's early action process. She reportedly planned to study law at the university.
Her story of her odds-defying accomplishments has been shared widely. And Castner’s mentor has been among those who have been chronicling the teen's successes.
On Instagram, Hamby boasted about the standout student she's cheered on, as she's watched her go after her dreams. "Girl set a goal to go to Harvard in elementary school despite being born in poverty," Hamby shared proudly. "Received full scholarship to attend Harvard in 2023."
This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.