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Denton alumna Adinawa Adjagbodjou accepted into seven of eight Ivy League schools

Adinawa Adjagbodjou addresses the commencement crowd
When Denton High School’s Adinawa Adjagbodjou walked across the stage in early June alongside 472 of her peers, she did so with the distinction of being a class valedictorian. One other distinction – the only documented of its kind in Denton ISD history – wasn’t commemorated by an honor cord or stole, however.

Adinawa’s biggest graduation accomplishment is one few people can boast: being accepted into seven of eight Ivy League schools. With acceptance letters from Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale, the only Ivy League school she wasn’t immediately accepted in was Brown. She may have received admission there, too, had she not told the university she would attend Harvard and taken herself off Brown’s waitlist.

Her enviable task of deciding which school to attend was further compounded by the fact that she was also accepted into a variety of other top-tier universities. Adinawa said her visit to Harvard made her feel at home, however, making the choice easier.

“I went to three of the schools I was accepted into – Princeton, Stanford and Harvard – but Harvard’s atmosphere really set it apart,” she said. “I loved the academic environment and how they encourage you to learn and surround yourself with different ideas. People there seem willing to do all kinds of things to better themselves.”

Adinawa also cited the school’s educational philosophy of trying different fields and learning from others as one of the major factors in her decision to attend Harvard. That philosophy is similar to what she learned in Denton High School’s International Baccalaureate classes. In IB classes, students are held to lofty academic standards that involve dissecting how actions in one country can impact others across the globe.

“I loved the academic environment [of Harvard] and how they encourage you to learn and surround yourself with different ideas.”

In a history class, for instance, Adinawa and classmates learned how the United States’ bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II impacted Japan by reading accounts from Japanese survivors.

“Traditionally, American history classes only look at an American perspective, but in our class, we looked at that side as well as the other global points of view,” Adinawa said. “That was one of the most eye-opening experiences ever, when it came to reading accounts from atomic bomb survivors. That’s one of the things I love about IB – having different perspectives and people from different backgrounds really makes conversations more interesting.”
Beth Hughes, Denton ISD’s high school IB coordinator for upperclassmen, said Adinawa’s experiences, drive for success and care for others perfectly meshes with what IB classes teach and what Adinawa will further explore at Harvard.

“I could tell in the beginning that she had a very strong motivational drive that can sometimes be lacking in students,” Mrs. Hughes said. “She asks a lot of good questions if she doesn’t know about something, and she always respects the views of others. She’s not the kind of person who’s afraid to admit someone else may be right, and I think her mentality on how to better herself is a big reason why she’s so successful in everything she does.”

One of Adinawa’s strongest attributes is that she doesn’t just want to better herself, however – she wants to better everyone else as well, especially those who need the most help.

An example of Adinawa’s commitment to others can be seen in her goals for the future. She plans to major in economics and computer science, which she hopes to use to benefit underdeveloped countries, such as Benin and its neighbors.

Adinawa cites the emphasis her parents, Dr. Paulin Adjagbodjou and Colette Tinkpon, placed on education as a major reason for her goal of helping others.

“They left Benin because they wanted more opportunities for us; the educational system over there isn’t as strongly founded as it is in the U.S.,” she said. “That’s why I want to give back. I believe developmental economics can make a systemic change to benefit an entire population.”

Thanks to her hard work and the support of her parents, Adinawa actually won’t have to worry about economics for a while – not for herself, that is. She’s received several local and national scholarships, including the prestigious Gates Millennium and Ron Brown scholarships, among others. The Gates scholarship can fully pay for up to 10 years of post-secondary education, while the Brown scholarship provides up to $10,000 per year over four years for other educational expenses.

When Adinawa arrives for classes at Harvard in the spring, she’ll work toward her future dreams with the benefit of knowing she’s already achieved one lofty dream.

“I definitely didn’t think I was going to get into [seven Ivy League schools],” she said. “It would be a dream to get into any Ivy League school. I wanted to challenge myself after all the hard academic work I’ve put in, and all extracurricular work – I wanted to see where it could get me.”