WITH HONORS IN HARVARD: A story of Pinay Nanny's Daughter

Maria de Leon, 24, daughter of a Filipina nanny from Chicago, graduates with honors from Harvard University with a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Harvard, one of the top universities in the world with a five-percent acceptance rate, offered de Leon a full scholarship. She finished her degree in 2020, but due to the pandemic, she’s only able to march this year.

“It’s been two years since I actually graduated but we can only really celebrate now. Two years ago, it really didn’t feel like a graduation … So I feel like this is the closure that everyone really needed,” de Leon said.

Her application essay for Harvard was a recount of her mother’s experience of assault, and how that experience resolved her to do better for her family. “I know there are some hardships that we can overcome but if we keep trying and always fighting for 

Her mother, Jojit de Leon, said that her being a full scholar greatly helped her, as she’s also supporting her other three children’s education.

Para akong tumama sa lotto. Sa ating mga magulang, ang pinakagusto natin sa ating mga anak ay makatapos ng pag-aaral. Kasi ako, hindi ko nagampanan makatapos ng pag-aaral. Gusto kong maging nurse. And tingnan mo naman ngayon, si Maria is living my dream,” she said.

(It felt like I won the lottery. For us parents, what we want most is for our children to finish school. I never did, and I wanted to be a nurse. But look at Maria, she’s living my dream.) 

Harvard paid for her family’s trip from Chicago to Boston for the graduation ceremony. Her father, who still lives in the Philippines, flew to the United States to celebrate his youngest daughter’s accomplishment.

Maria plans to take medicine at Boston University in the fall.

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