Girl Born in Jail Defies Expectations and Gets Accepted to Harvard University

Congratulations are in order for one exceptional young woman. Eighteen-year-old Aurora Sky Castner just graduated third in her class from Conroe High School in Texas, an admirable feat on its own; but, it’s all the more impressive given how much the teen has triumphed over in her young life. She was born to an incarcerated mother and raised by a single father. Through hard work and the lucky outreach of a valuable mentor, Castner is now set to attend her dream school, Harvard University, in the fall.

Castner was born while her mother was incarcerated in the Galveston County Jail. Her father then raised her as a single parent; Castner has only spoken to her mother once at age 14. The Houston Chronicle reports that the young girl showed academic aptitude, but felt she could benefit from having another adult mentor in her life. Castner was paired with Mona Hamby, and the two quickly grew close.

Hamby helped out by guiding Castner through the minutiae of life, from buying glasses to haircuts. “It was a very different environment than I grew up in and that’s not a bad thing,” Castner told the paper. “Everything that Mona taught me was very valuable in the same way that everything that I went through before Mona was very valuable.” As to her strong academic drive, the teen says, “There was something satisfying about having all As and having that accomplishment. Grades just meant a lot to me.” She set her sights on Harvard after visiting the campus with Hamby, and she started her all-important admissions essay with her own beginning: “I was born in prison.”

Castner was admitted early action to the prestigious university, and she will be welcomed to campus with the rest of the freshman class in the fall. She hopes to study the law—while law is not an undergraduate major at Harvard, hopefully Castner will be able to pursue her passion through cross-listed courses.

Castner's success is to be applauded, and Hamby's support for the girl is a lucky intervention. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against children who begin life with parents who are incarcerated or otherwise involved in the criminal justice system. Approximately 2,000 children a year are born to incarcerated women, and countless more are born with incarcerated fathers. Proportionally, significantly more Black and brown children have incarcerated or system-involved parents. Birthing people may be shackled during birth and are often separated very quickly (and against medical best practice) from their infants. Even after birth, children of incarcerated parents face incredible obstacles including housing instability, socio-emotional challenges, etc. Castner deserves to be applauded for her personal efforts to overcome challenges resulting from the circumstances of her birth, and her story must also draw attention to this deeply underserved population of children and the systemic solutions they need.

Born while her mother was incarcerated in county jail, Aurora Sky Castner will now attend her dream school, Harvard, after finishing third from the top in her high school class.

Harvard University

Harvard Yard, an iconic part of the Harvard University campus. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

h/t: [UNILAD]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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