With 8 Ivy Leagues to choose from, Ekeh picks Yale

Harold Ekeh, who faced the tantalizing decision of choosing between eight Ivy League schools and MIT, has now narrowed the field to one: Yale.

“I am both incredibly humbled and excited to say that I am officially a part of the Yale University Class of 2019,” the Elmont High School senior said.

In total, Ekeh went 13-for-13 in college admissions, including to all eight Ivy League Schools and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ekeh said in a recent interview that he was initially leaning toward Yale after being inspired by a school trip there.

“I visited Yale with my school’s Model UN team and I loved how passionate the people were,” he said.

Born in Nigeria, Ekeh moved to Queens at age eight and then to Elmont for the schools. In his admissions essay, he described his experience coming to America and his initial struggles to adapt.

“I spoke English, but with a really heavy accent. But I watched my parents persevere — despite closed doors, they were very persistent,” Ekeh said. “U.S. history was very challenging for me because I never learned that. I decided to face my challenges, to never give up and to tackle the challenge head on.”

Though his family lived “a very comfortable life” in Nigeria, he said his parents decided to move to the United States to offer him and his siblings more opportunity.

He remembers the small one-bedroom apartment his family lived in when they first came to America, and the jobs his parents worked — at Walmart, Target and a soup shop — “just to provide for our food and housing.”

“I witnessed my parents struggling,” he said. “I really appreciate their sacrifice for us.”

Ekeh, who had a grade point average of 100.51 and an SAT score of 2270, said he plans to study biology and neurobiology and hopes to become a neurosurgeon.

“I’d always say that I want to know what’s inside the human body,” he said. “I’ve been interested in the brain itself.”

In January, he was named a semifinalist in the prestigious Intel STS competition for his original research on Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. In his project — succinctly titled, “The role of PARP-1 in MeHg-induced dopaminergic dysfunction and mitochondrial DNA depletion” — Ekeh found that certain toxins cause degradation of motor skills and lead to the diseases.

He said his grandmother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when he was 11, inspired his research.

“If there is any way I can work to prevent this I want to,” Ekeh said.

After Ekeh won the Intel distinction, Elmont High School principal John Capozzi said Ekeh “really represents Elmont Memorial High School.”

“No one is more determined than Harold,” he said.

Ekeh demonstrated that determination in his search for a lab to conduct his research, saying he applied to “maybe 80” different labs.  

“After 80, I finally got accepted,” he said.

Behind Ekeh’s decision to go to Yale were the people he interacted with, he said.

“I met world scholars, outstanding educators and global leaders in their respective fields. The students were so inviting and helpful,” Ekeh said. “Through my conversations with current Yale students, I was inspired by their passion for learning for learning’s sake.”

And now, he says, Ekeh is ready for the next phase of his life.

“Yale embodies everything I am looking for in a university: a strong undergraduate focus, close interaction with professors and a solid support system,” he said. “I look forward to the next phase of life, the friends I will make and all the new opportunities that await me.”

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James Galloway

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