Harvard-bound Springfield grad hopes to be ‘inspiration to others’

Jacqueline Grayson and classmate Aseelah Ashraf both headed to the Ivy League school

Sometimes there is nothing like getting accepted to Harvard to break up the monotony of a global pandemic.

At least that’s what worked for Springfield senior Jacqueline Grayson.

»PHOTOS: Class of 2020 top grads

“It was March 27, and they call it Ivy Day because when all the Ivy League schools release their decisions,” she recalled in a phone interview.

“It was a funny day because I knew they released them at like 7:30 p.m., and I was staying on my couch stalling because I didn’t want open it because I was so sure I didn’t get in.”

Finally she took her computer to the room where her mom was working and couldn’t wait any longer.

“I just was like, ‘OK, Mom, I’ve got to open it. I’ve gotta press the button,’ and then the first page was just like confetti and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I got accepted!”

The good news has helped cushion the blow students across the area and beyond have felt this spring with schools closed and all of the traditional spring activities like prom and graduation canceled or significantly altered because of the coronavirus pandemic.

For Grayson, that also meant she did not get to experience her senior season of softball.

“I’ve chosen to take the mindset that I want to remember high school for all the good things that happened and not so much the things that I missed out on,” said Grayson, who also played soccer, ran cross country and was a power lifter for the Wildcats. “So I am definitely sad about all of the things that we’re missing at the end of the school year, but at the same time, it just reminds you how much you enjoyed everything that happened before then.

“Even the small things, just like day-to-day interactions and seeing all of the people – being at a big high school means that you see tons and tons of people every single day, and it’s not that you have many very meaningful interactions, but even if all you do is say hi in the hallway, it’s definitely those things I think I remember the most, just the small things.”

Although Harvard has not announced yet if it will welcome students back this fall, Grayson said she will be starting classes whether or not it is on campus or from her kitchen table.

And while she looks forward to meeting a bunch of new people, there will be at least one familiar face.

Aseelah Ashraf, who also ran cross country for the Wildcats, is headed to Harvard this fall, too.

Not surprisingly, the school is full of pride to have not one but two alumni set to carry the banner for SHS next year.

“Springfield High, all of its students and staff, are so incredibly proud of both Ms. Ashraf and Ms. Grayson,” lead principal Patrick Smith said. “To be sending these two young ladies off to Harvard University is an honor for our school and speaks to the quality of education provided through the Springfield City Schools. Throughout their time on campus they worked ceaselessly to improve themselves and, notably, those around them. These young woman leave behind a school that is better of for having known them. We are supremely confident they will go on to do great things!”

Director of athletics Mike Dellapina noted athletics aren’t the only things they have in common.

“It’s neat to see two kids who just embody a great, well-rounded student,” Dellapina said. “They’re athletes, they’re artists, they’re musicians, they’re scholars. They’ve really kind of grasped everything they can in high school and taken advantage of all the things we’ve offered and excelled in all areas.

“To see both of them travel similar paths through arts and academics and athletics, they’re great examples of what SHS has to offer and what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.”

Grayson has not picked a major yet, but she said she is interested in politics and poetry, so government and creative writing are among her potential choices.

Whatever she chooses, she looks forward to blazing her own trail and representing her alma mater in Cambridge.

“I definitely want to go there and leave a lasting impression, and I think it’s really good for other people in Springfield to see what people are capable of accomplishing,” she said. “I really want to go there and come back and hopefully be an inspiration to others.”

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