The Story Behind A Viral Harvard Acceptance

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This 16-year-old has gone viral — but more importantly, he's going to Harvard.

Ayrton Little, a teen from a small city in Louisiana, tweeted a video Tuesday night of the exact moment he learned he'd been accepted to his dream college, Harvard University. And less than 24 hours later, the viral clip was approaching 3 million views.

The video's opening shot zeros in on Ayrton, wearing a Harvard hoodie and tapping on the touchpad of his laptop. Then suddenly, he screams. He's in. The whole scene is just pure joy, with Little jumping out of his seat as the room erupts. The camera pulls back, and shows a crowd of cheering people shaking him in celebration. The happy mob tugs at his sweatshirt and pulls him into embraces.

“Friends and family were there, but the majority of it was my school,” Ayrton said in a phone call Wednesday. “We're a really small school. There's only 16 in our graduating class, and me and my brother are two of those 16.”

Little, who skipped a grade and turns 17 in February, said taking the video is a ritual for seniors. He also pinned a similar video to the top of his Twitter page of his older brother, Alex, getting accepted into Stanford last Friday.

Both brothers have wanted to get into their respective universities for as long as they can remember. While Alex is the first to get into Stanford, it’s the third year in a row TM Landry College Preparatory will send someone to Harvard.

Despite his school's track record, Ayrton said he feels it's rare for a kid from the South to strive for the Ivy League.

“Seeing Ayrton also doing it,” said his brother, Alex, "those goals we set for each other kind of caused us to become real competitive and push each other to do the best we can.”

"Is this really happening?" The boys' mother, Maureen Little, kept repeating the question, delighted that both her sons were invited to the prestigious schools.

She said there were difficult times raising her sons as a single mom, but she felt lucky that she never had to worry about their performances in school.

“They brought home good grades,” she said.

“Who do you credit more,” Ayrton asked, “us or you?”

“I think it’s you,” Alex told his mom. She replied with a laugh.

“You think it’s me?” she said. “I think because you saw what I was going through, y'all didn't want to disappoint me, maybe. So you just did well.”

She added that when people ask how she raised such bright kids, she credits multitasking. She was a culinary teacher, and that meant her sons often "played school," helping her prep lessons and meals.

The brothers said another family member motivated them: their youngest brother, who died after an asthma attack five years ago. He would have turned 13 this month.

The brothers said their younger sibling was "probably smarter than us." They said they know he would have gone to a great school, too.

Ayrton’s tweet wasn’t the only video posted on social media by students who received early acceptance from Harvard. But it is the only one approaching 100,000 retweets.

“I think part of it is that he’s 16,” Alex said, adding, “People really love the amount of support and how crazy everyone went. It wasn’t just Ayrton’s accomplishment or my accomplishment. It was like the whole school’s accomplishment.”

Both Ayrton and Alex said they want to open nonprofits to help students.

Ayrton wants to help “kids that grow up like me,” he said, “with a love of learning, but they may not have the resources to be able to go to Harvard or Stanford.”

This segment aired on December 15, 2017.

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Elizabeth Gillis Social Media Editor
Liz Gillis was a social media and visuals editor at WBUR.



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