Oakland teenager Akintunde Ahmad’s story is being hailed on social media as an example of why you should never judge a book by its cover.
The 18-year-old Oakland Technical High School senior has been accepted into Yale, Brown and Columbia, has a 5.0 GPA, and he scored a 2100 on his SATs. But when some people look at his dreadlocks and sweatpants they have trouble believing it. So he keeps photographic proof of his accomplishments on his cell phone. And also tweets them out.
Akintunde or “Tunde” as his friends call him, was on The Ellen Show Wednesday, announcing that he has decided to attend Yale in the fall. He also hopes to continue playing baseball at his new school.
“I’ve been a Bulldog at Oakland Tech for the past four years and I’m going to continue to be a Bulldog,” he said to applause from the audience. Yale’s mascot is a bulldog.
“How do you have time to dance like that if you’re always studying?” Ellen asked Tunde as he capered to “Can You Do This” on her set.
And later, “I didn’t even know you could get a 5.0 GPA … Have you always been a good student?” she asked.
“Yeah, I guess it started when I was young – just got on like a good path, when I got home from school after practice and sports, always right to homework,” Tunde said.
Ellen also presented Tunde with a check for $15,000 to help with tuition.
In earlier interviews — Tunde’s story was picked up by BET, the Daily Mail and SFGate — Tunde describes himself as “any other street dude,” but his story is one of courage and determination to win against all odds.
Despite living in a tough neighborhood – he can easily recall a long list of people he knew who were killed in street violence – Tunde was able to steer clear of the distractions that often befell African-American teenagers.
When you see Tunde for the first time, it’s hard not to notice his locks and gold chains, but the other thing that hits you immediately is his maturity and calm demeanor. He’s wiser than his 18 years and has some good advice for kids who come from similar backgrounds.
“Manage your time wisely because it’s easy to get behind when you’re doing that much,” he said in a backstage interview on Ellen. “But staying busy kind of helps you do that because you don’t have any time to fall behind or procrastinate … Makes it easier in a way.”
Today it’s not just the Ivies that want Tunde, he’s getting acceptance letters from the University of Southern California, UCLA, Northwestern and a number of other schools.
“I wasn’t very ecstatic about it or anything – I didn’t tell my parents … it was like another day” he said of the acceptance letters backstage.
One of six children in a Rastafarian family, one of Tunde’s brothers was caught carrying guns during a federal sting operation and sent to prison last year.
“We got the same mother, the same father, just a different path,” he told SFGate.
On Wednesday, Tunde’s parents were in the audience to cheer him on.
“You can say he’s the smartest one of all the children?”
“Yes, we can say that,” his mother replied smiling.
— Tunde (@akintundeahmad) April 23, 2014
— Tunde (@akintundeahmad) March 23, 2014