Central Falls senior 1st to get accepted to Harvard University

By: Alexandra Cowley


A senior at Central Falls High School is the first at the school to get accepted at Harvard. But 17-year-old Jean Paul Valencia hasn't accepted the offer yet, because he has to choose between four other ivy league schools.

Even for someone as smart as Jean Paul Valencia, remembering all the acceptances he's gotten, can be mentally straining.

“Harvard, Yale, Columbia, MIT, Dartmouth, Brown, BU, Northeastern, and URI,” explained Valencia.

17-year-old Valencia is vice president of his class and valedictorian. But perhaps what's more impressive than his academic achievements are the obstacles he overcame to get here.

He was born in Queens. His parents are from Columbia and didn't graduate high school. Still, they speak little English. Valencia grew up in the Central Falls public school system. His parents always pushed him to do more and to want more.

“Ever since I was like 5, they were like go to college Jean Paul, go to college. Because to do something great, education is the only way you can achieve that,” said Valencia.

So, he pushed himself, wanting to make his parents proud. At times, he struggled. His mom was out of work for 3 years and his high school was one of the lowest performing in the state. But that didn't stop him from getting what he needed.

“I've always been sort of aggressive when it comes to asking what I want from the system,” Valencia explained.

Jean Paul's history teacher Bob Scappini says Valencia always asked for more work, even on holiday breaks.

“He has the grit, the fire, the determination to keep learning and that's what you look for. In 9th grade Jean Paul said I'm going to Harvard and I said ok that's a great goal. So he worked, he achieved, and now he's walking around like a giant steam engine just busting at the seams,”joked Scappini.

Jean Paul's success is a shining light in the district that's struggled for years. His story is an inspiration.

“Jean Paul is an example of what's happening here not only in the high school, the district, but the entire city,” said Deputy superintendent of transformation Victor Capellan.

Jean Paul has until May to make his decision. He says money won't be an issue because of the generous packages he's been offered.

Because of his ambition, Central Falls High School has tripled its amount of AP courses offered.

(C) WLNE-TV 2014