Grambling State University biology major Whitney Henry of Vieux-Fort, St. Lucia, has been accepted into Harvard University’s biological and biomedical research Ph.D. program, free of charge. As if Ivy League universities aren’t daunting enough, Harvard currently boasts a 6.9 percent acceptance rate.
The soft-spoken lady seemed shy about her accomplishment. As word spread, a student told her that it came as no surprise. Henry crinkled her nose, smiled and said that she was surprised.
Henry’s ascension should be expected. The intellectual islander came to Grambling during fall 2006 after spending two years at Sir Arthur Community College in St. Lucia where she studied math and sciences.
While here she maintained a 4.0 GPA and numerous campus organizational involvements.
She is an active member of the International Model Society, Biology Club, Catholic Student Organization and the Golden Key Honor Society.
The beauty was also Miss September 2008 in the Calendar Girl scholarship pageant, where she sent the international students sprinting and waving flags as she received numerous accolades including Academic Excellence.
Henry’s life is one of trial and triumph. She was the first to complete high school and the only one of her 11 siblings to go to college. A descendant of modest means, her biological mother was a maid for the Burt family before the Burts adopted Henry.
Henry enjoys working with children and distributing food to the poor. One of her ultimate goals includes becoming a cancer research scientist.
She isn’t all success and no tips for others. The scholar advises students who are interested in attending Ivy League universities to write a strong personal statement, find out the schools’ requirements and be involved in extracurricular activities.
She also said students will want recommendation letters from people who will speak to the academic development and personal attributes of the applicant.
“Everyone applying has excellent academics,” she said. “They want to know that you have a passion for your field of study. They want you to show it.”
She attributes her success to countless people, especially the biology and chemistry faculty, but isolated GSU professors Drs. Tony Perry, Quincy Quick, Hung-Tat Leung, Felix Ifeanyi and Allen Miles as instrumental.
She also expressed appreciation for Dr. Andy Tao of Purdue University and Dr. Jennifer Kohler of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
“In her lab I discovered that I really wanted to go into scientific research,” Henry said of Dr. Kohler.
The beaming student maintains a reputation as illuminating as her smile.
“Whitney is the epitome of humility. She is a natural young woman with immeasurable volumes of potential. I am really proud of her,” said Julietta Gonzague a senior from Anse, St. Lucia.
“Her drive and ability to focus can be attributed to her many successes,” said Kwame Cyril a senior from Castries, St. Lucia.
With wits, grace and gratefulness, there’s nothing Henry can’t accomplish.
“I know what it’s like to have nothing, so I appreciate everything there is in life,” Henry said.