At a time when a massive college admissions scandal is causing many to lose faith in the idea that hard work gets you ahead, a Georgia teen who was accepted into more than 50 schools and awarded over $1 million in scholarship funding is spreading hope for some people.
"It really boosted my confidence and my self esteem because I honestly didn’t think that I could achieve such a big goal," Jakelia Baker, 17, told "Good Morning America."
Baker, the valedictorian of her 2019 class at Lucy C. Laney High School in Augusta, Georgia, said she currently has a 4.1 GPA.
In addition to her academic transcript, Baker participates in a cornucopia of extracurricular activities, saying she does "volleyball, basketball, golf, tennis, soccer, also in the marching band, math team, student council, National Honor Society and Academic Decathlon."
When asked how she was able to juggle so many activities and maintain her grades, the teen admitted she "gave up" on her social life, saying "I had to miss out on parties and stuff."
But missing out on a few high school parties to study and play sports ended up earning the teen a total of approximately $1.3 million in scholarship funding.
She also credits the support of her mother, retired Army veteran Denise Richards, for keeping her on track, calling her "my top motivator."
Baker said she applied to around 65 schools and was able to in part because she reached out and was eligible for application fee exemptions or waivers.
Her advice for high schoolers applying to college is to never give up.
"The process will be hard, but keep pushing and you will reach your goals," she said.
Richards said her daughter is "a mixture between shy and outgoing," and said talked about the family as a whole, too: "Our whole family, we kind of dance and laugh a lot."
"She don’t wanna have no regrets, that’s the kind of person she is," the Richards added. "Anything that she puts her mind to, she exceeds and excels."
Richards added that she is "super proud and happy" for her daughter.