The moment inspired him to focus on school, despite bullies who nicknamed him “Harvard.”
“That’s when I realized I’ve got to buckle in, because I can’t have my potential kids going through what I’m going through now,” he explained.
Indeed, Jenkins did buckle in. In middle school, he attended a non-profit after-school program called Mighty Writers that helps students with their writing skills. With the program’s support, Jenkins began the competitive application process to attend a selective high school, marking a difficult time in the young man’s life.
“My migraines started in the eighth grade because of all of the stress I was dealing with at the time. There was a lot of pressure to get into high school and succeed. And then my dad had a heart attack,” he recalls for WHYY.
Jenkins’ condition worsened and he ended up spending significant time in the hospital, sometimes for weeks at a time. “I was eventually able to fight through it and get my work done because, at the end of the day, that was what was the most important to me,” he says.
That work paid off, and he was accepted at Girard College, a full-scholarship boarding high school for students from single-parent families with limited financial resources.