New Orleans High School Graduate Amari Shepherd Breaks Record with $9 Million in College Scholarships

Amari Shepherd, 17, has had a remarkable month of achievements. Boasting a GPA of 4.86, she delivered the valedictory speech at KIPP New Orleans’s Frederick A. Douglass High School’s graduation on May 17. Shortly before that, she obtained an associate degree from Bard Early College. Moreover, she has amassed scholarship offers totaling an impressive $9.2 million and secured admissions from 162 colleges.

Embarking on her journey at Spelman College in Atlanta, here are five key insights about Shepherd:

Her methodology: Shepherd presented her credentials, which include authoring a book called “Thirteen,” participating in the New Orleans mayor’s and superintendent’s youth advisory councils, and engaging in extensive community service, to numerous colleges that waived their application fees. Additionally, she submitted her application through Niche, an online platform offering direct college admissions based on students’ qualifications.

Amari Shepherd (Kipp: New Orleans Schools)

Insights on her scholarships: KIPP New Orleans administrators suggest that Shepherd could have received either the highest number or close to the highest of scholarship offers ever given to a graduate. Due to delays stemming from FAFSA issues this year, her scholarship count is likely to rise as colleges and philanthropic organizations continue award processing. Collectively, her senior class has already earned $26 million in scholarships.

Her destination: While waitlisted at an undisclosed Ivy League school, which was not her top pick, Shepherd has envisioned attending Spelman College for years. She expressed her delight, stating, “My mom always told me to play my role and everything else would fall into place, and that’s exactly what happened. (They did also give me a full ride 😉.)” Shepherd revealed to The 74’s inquiries, “So I’ll be going to my dream school for free!”

Future aspirations: Following a political science undergraduate degree, Shepherd plans to pursue law school. As a two-time victor of KIPP New Orleans’s Black Lives Matter writing contest, she aims to address societal issues. Expressing her ambitions, Shepherd articulated, “I want to be on the Supreme Court because I want to be a part of change to make a more fair, just and equitable society, and what better way to do that than from inside.”

Her motivation: Shepherd encountered personal loss at a young age, with the passing of her father during her kindergarten years. More recently, she mourned the loss of both her maternal grandparents to COVID. Reflecting on their values, she shared, “Education meant everything to them, so I didn’t really have a choice but to do well in school,” emphasizing her commitment to honoring their legacy. “It made me feel like everything I do moving forward is bigger than just me.

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