Congratulations to Harvard Bound Jackrabbits

The Class of 2022 has worked hard to be where they are now. They’ve tackled challenging classes, tests, and competitions since their start at Poly. They’ve received acceptance letters and now know which schools they’ll go to in the fall. The beginning of a new chapter has just begun. This year, Poly has two students who have excelled and achieved so much that they’ve been accepted to Harvard University. The future Ivy Leaguers are PACE students Anouska Ortiz and Martin Bigil-Rico.

An acceptance to Harvard is nothing to disregard. With only about a 5% acceptance rate, it’s easy for anyone to doubt an acceptance. The moment of seeing that first yes can bring out loads of emotions that begin to build up from the start of applying.

Ortiz said the idea of her getting into Harvard hadn’t crossed her mind until it was real. She said, “I just saw the first word, ‘Congratulations!’, and started crying from happiness. My dad brought out confetti he bought a few days prior, and my family and I celebrated together that evening.”

Ortiz said she’s “ineffably grateful for this acceptance, and I am fortunate to have received such a blessing.” She mentioned that she felt right at home during a tour of one of Harvard’s campuses. She said, “Since then, I’ve had a goal to attend Harvard, to revisit the place I felt so connected to.”

Bigil-Rico said that the idea of attending a school like Harvard “felt unreal and more of a fantasy than anything.” He explained that seeing the acceptance came as a surprise. “I was with friends when I opened the decision letter… we all jumped out of our chairs in disbelief,” he said. He’s grateful for the opportunity and feels incredibly lucky. “While I am very excited to be attending Harvard next year, I always remind myself to keep working hard as the journey has just begun,” he said. He also mentioned that Harvard had given him a full-tuition paid for all four years he will be attending.

Steven Meckna, an AP Euro teacher and coach, spoke positively about both students. “I had both of them as juniors during Covid. I would always open up the zoom at 7:20 AM in case anyone wanted to talk to me. Anouska would check in early and have questions about history. Martin would show up to school when it went into hybrid. So I got to know him a little better. Those guys are excellent students: an incredible intellect, ability to analyze, and a good healthy curiosity.”

Regarding their acceptance, he said, “These are kids who have achieved what’s arguably the highest honor you can get in American academics. They’ve been accepted into and chosen to go to the most prestigious university in the country.”

It’s important to have support behind you regarding significant decisions that’ll affect your future. 

Ortiz said that her biggest support came from her family and teachers. She said, “My sister and dad have always pushed me to success and have always aided me throughout my high school career. Everything I do, is for the unmatched dedication of my mom, since she’s the one who has inserted the dream of going to Harvard in me since that summer before tenth grade.”

Two teachers who have aided in her growth and education are Meckna and English teacher Sarah Schol. Ortiz said, “They as well as all of my teachers here at Poly, are always in my corner. If they’re reading this, thank you for your undevoted time and effort.”

Bigil-Rico’s top supporters were his family and teachers. “My family supported me all along the way, and they were always there for me. I never really received pressure from them to do well in school. They really wanted me to find my own path in life,” he said.

There was also Meckna and a Harvard professor who Bigil-Rico is an apprentice to. He said, “Mr. Meckna wrote my letter of recommendation to Harvard, and I do believe it is what got me in.” He explains how Meckna is a teacher he can go to to have a conversation and feel a connection. He said, “he is the best instructor I’ve met so far in my academic career and such a great person who I look up to as a human being, and I am ever grateful for everything he has done for me.” He also explained that after his professor at Harvard found out about his acceptance, he offered opportunities as a physics major and participation in cutting-edge research.

Both students had advice for students who hope to achieve what they have.

Ortiz’s advice to other students is “to pursue anything you’re passionate about. Once you find what interests you, even if it changes, you find that you’ll drive yourself. Focus on discovering your authentic passions, using those to express your truest self, because success will follow thereafter. Everything will fall into place.”

Bigil-Rico said “to not hope on such things. Luck plays an incredible role in the admissions process. It is incredibly easy to work so hard toward getting into a certain school, have a seemingly perfect application, and then be rejected. I stressed myself out way too much, and I basically devoted my life to just getting into a college. You have to take life one step at a time: get good grades, participate in activities you’re interested in at a high level, win a couple awards, reach out and make a few connections, hang out with friends, and then when college applications come, you can worry about that.”

Ortiz said she plans to study Harvard’s chemical and physical biology and linguistics majors. After receiving a Bachelor’s, she wants to continue her education in medical school.

Bigil-Rico said that he wants to study physics and computer science with a secondary in literature while at Harvard. After undergrad, he wants to become a physics professor, a software engineer, or an author. He knows that whatever path he takes will be the best for him.

Meckna had brought to High Life’s attention that these two students weren’t recognized in the latest newspaper. He advised writing an article honoring these two students. He said, “They [should] get something that needs to be addressed because these are kids that have achieved the highest things you can achieve in academics. That’s worthy of much more recognition and celebration than it’s been given.”

He also said, “It’s a testimony to those kids and their very special efforts to be successful, to the program at the school that provided them this opportunity, and to the school that facilitates the program.”