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PICTURED: Harvard-bound teen born in prison beams at her graduation
Texas teenager who was born in PRISON and is now bound for HARVARD on a full scholarship beams with pride at high school graduation, as her mentor gushes how she overcame ‘poverty’ to achieve her dreams
- Sky Castner, 18, graduated third in her class at Conroe High School on Thursday – with her mentor by her side
- The teen, from Montgomery County, was born in Galveston County Jail, where her mother was incarcerated
- Mentor Mona Hamby praised Sky for reaching her ‘goal’ of going to Harvard ‘despite being born in poverty’
The Texas teenager who was born inside a prison and has overcome childhood poverty to secure a full scholarship to Harvard took her first steps towards her future this week when she graduated from high school.
Aurora Sky Castner, 18, made headlines earlier this week when her extraordinary story was revealed to the world by her longtime mentor – who revealed how the ‘voracious reader’ landed herself a place at Harvard Law School, achieving a life-long goal that she set for herself back in elementary school.
Now images have captured the moment that Sky, who was raised by her single, bipolar father with the help of mentor Mona Hamby and several other members of the local community, celebrated her successes alongside her loved ones at her high school graduation on Thursday.
Photos of the teenager taken outside of Conroe High School in Montgomery County, from which she graduated summa cum laude, show her beaming with pride while posing in her golden cap and gown – with one snap showing her flashing an enthusiastic thumbs up to her friends and family.
The Texas teenager who was born in a prison and is now bound for Harvard Law School on a full scholarship has been pictured at her high school graduation – after her extraordinary story was revealed to the world
Aurora Sky Castner, 18, was born behind the walls of Galveston County Jail, where her mother was incarcerated, and she was then raised by a single father, who suffered from bipolar disorder
When speaking about her academic successes, Sky credited her mentor Mona Hamby (seen hugging the teen) for helping her to achieve her dream of one day going to Harvard – a goal that she set for herself when she was in elementary school
In addition to her summa cum laude sash, Castner also proudly posed in a medal from The Academy for Health and Science Professions at Conroe High School, an organization that she has been a part of throughout her time there.
Another particularly poignant photo captures Castner and Hamby locked in a warm embrace before the ceremony began, with the high school graduate wrapping her arms around her longtime mentor – while jokingly telling her not to cry.
It is no surprise that emotions were running high on the milestone day, particularly for Hamby, who spoke about Castner’s many achievements with great pride this week, recalling how the teenager laid bare her incredibly tough beginnings in life as part of the application essay that earned her the spot at the prestigious Ivy League school.
‘I was born in prison,’ the application letter began, according to the Houston Chronicle.
If that line alone wasn’t enough to grab the attention of the admissions board, perhaps Castner’s glowing academic records did the trick.
Described as a ‘voracious reader’ when she was in elementary school, the now-18-year-old was asked to join the local CISD Project Mentor program in the hopes of fostering her early talents. It was through this program that Castner met Hamby – who would go on to become one of the key figures in her life.
Images shared to Hamby’s social media accounts reveal her close bond with Castner – with the mentor gushing in one emotional post shared a few weeks before the teen’s graduation: ‘Girl set a goal to go to Harvard in elementary school despite being born in poverty. Received full scholarship to attend Harvard in 2023.’
According to Hamby, she knew that Castner had special talents from an early age, recalling to the Chronicle: ‘I was given a paper about her. Her hero was Rosa Parks, her favorite food was tacos from Dairy Queen and she loved to read. I thought this sounds like a bright little girl.’
Castner proudly sported a ‘Harvard bound’ sign on the top of her graduation cap
The teenager graduated summa cum laude and finished third in her class at Conroe High School
In addition to her summa cum laude sash, Castner also proudly posed in a medal from The Academy for Health and Science Professions at Conroe High School, an organization that she has been a part of throughout her time there
Castner’s successes are all the more impressive when her background is taken into account. The teenager was born behind the walls of the Galveston County Jail (pictured) where her mother was incarcerated at the time
She continued: ‘She told me: “I’ve been to jail.” I said: “No, that can’t be right.” I knew that I can’t just go eat lunch with this kid once a week, she needed more.’
In the years since, Hamby has been a lifeline for Castner, helping the youngster to get glasses, accompanying her on trips to the salon for a haircut, and connecting her with local dentists and orthodontists for other healthcare needs.
But one of Hamby’s greatest contributions to Castner’s life was perhaps when she and her husband Randy accompanied the teenager on a tour of Harvard last year – which was, the mentor recalled, the moment that the high schooler’s love of the Ivy League ‘intensified’.
Hamby has been by Castner’s side for many milestone occasions in her life – including the high school graduate’s senior prom, which took place in April, just a few weeks before her graduation.
An image shared on Hamby’s Instagram account – which she captioned ‘Prom 2023 for my sweet girl!’ – shows the teenager posing alongside a lake while wearing a stunning floor-length red ball gown.
Meanwhile Sky herself posted several photos from the dance, including several with her friends – and her boyfriend, Nate Morris.
The teenager has been very private about her academic achievements on social media, sharing just a few images of herself visiting the Harvard campus in April, when she attended freshman orientation.
Castner first learned that she had gained a place at the Ivy League school back in December, a moment that Hamby was quick to celebrate on Instagram, where she shared an image of a sign reading: ‘Harvard here comes Sky!’
Sky Castner, 18, of Montgomery County, was born in Galveston County Jail, as her mother was incarcerated at the time of her birth. Her father would pick her up from the county jail and raised her as a single dad
‘I was born in prison,’ reads the first line of her Harvard application letter
Despite her rough beginnings, Castner will graduate third in her class from Conroe High School – north of Houston
In the accompanying caption she voiced her pride, writing: ‘This girl put in all the hard work and dedication it took.’
Back in October, Hamby marked another banner week in Castner’s life – after the teen submitted her Harvard application and paid off her first car, all within a matter of days.
‘Amazing week for this girl!’ Hamby wrote while sharing an image of the teenager holding up the deed to her new car.
‘Application submitted to Harvard on Monday. First car paid off on Tuesday. Lots of long hours put into both. Congratulations girl! I love you and your work ethic.’
On her Facebook page, Hamby opened up about the significance of her mentoring duties, writing alongside an image of Castner back in 2019: ‘Often people ask me about mentoring. It’s something I wish everyone would do for themselves. Not just for that child who has their name on a list. You will be blessed so much more.
‘Yes, they have been identified as “in need”. Maybe a single parent home. Sometimes struggling in school. Perhaps a behavior problem. We are all broken people, aren’t we? I urge my friends to volunteer once a week. Bring a lunch and talk/play games (checkers, connect4, etc). You won’t ever regret it.’
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