Meara Brown’s father is currently serving a life sentence. She’s being raised by a single mother of four, is a product of a critical needs school district, and doesn’t know a single person from her community that’s attended an Ivy League school. But this fall, when she takes her first college course, she’ll be a student at one of the most prestigious universities in the world — Yale.
“When I found out that I had been accepted, I was yelling and screaming,” Brown smiled. “My mom was speechless. She couldn’t even say anything. At that point, I didn’t care if I got into any other colleges because I’d been accepted by Yale.”
The recent Leland High School graduate had dreams of attending an Ivy League for years. Her pursuit began early by taking the ACT as a seventh grader. Her first score was a 20. A far cry from her final tally of 31 she boasted as a senior.
“I was very ecstatic about scoring a 31 on the ACT,” she said. “Thirty was my goal because all of the colleges I was applying to had an acceptance rate that was less than 10 percent. In order to have been even considered, I needed at least a 30. I didn’t know anyone that had ever attended an Ivy League school and I wanted to be someone that could represent the Mississippi Delta.”
Brown graduated from Leland High School on May 25 with a 4.0 GPA, the title of Salutatorian and a plethora of accolades. In her words, none of that would have been possible without the unwavering support of her mother.
“My mom has been my support system throughout this entire process,” she said. “My dad has been in prison since I was seven years old so I had to send him screenshots of my acceptance. Even before he was incarcerated, he wasn’t able to be there for me as much as he would’ve liked. That’s why I appreciate the work my mom has done in stepping up to the plate. My mom and Ms. Melnick from my school have played an integral role.”
She’ll need that support moving forward. A new chapter will begin for the optimistic scholar when she makes the 20-hour trip to New Haven, Connecticut in a couple of months, moving 1,300 miles from home.
“I’ve never been to Connecticut,” she said. “I’ve never even visited Yale which makes it even more exciting to me. It will be a new experience and a new journey. It’s a fresh start. No one knows me there, and I don’t know anyone.”
Brown plans to double major in Forensic Psychology and Political Science before attending law school and eventually becoming an attorney and forensic psychologist. She hopes that other students in the Mississippi Delta will see her determination and be inspired to take similar paths.
“I don’t know if this will make sense but hopefully it means that I won’t be the only one,” she said. “I came from a very poor-performing school that had limited resources and a myriad of issues like some classrooms without air when it’s 90 degrees outside. I feel like if I can do it with all of the obstacles I faced while being the eldest of four children to a single mother and working a part-time job, others can see that it is possible. I’m hoping this becomes a trend. I’m from Leland, Mississippi. Most people don’t even know where Leland is. If I can do it, someone else from my hometown or the Mississippi Delta can do it as well.”