The road to Harvard has some hurdles; but when you are Hanna Nunez, you take them all in stride

Published 4:22 am Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hannah Nunez, Picayune Memorial High School senior and track star, 2010 PRC Junior Miss and daughter of Kaysea and Chuck Nunez, is looking forward to college. She is thinking about wardrobe, dorm room needs, just as many of her friends at school are. The difference being, Nunez will attend college at Harvard University.

There were a series family traveled reaching the decision for Nunez to attend Harvard was in itself a series of hurdles and high jumps.

“The second to most daunting part of this effort was that she had to stay on top of the tedious application process with each school that she applied to. Every weekend in October we went visiting different schools,” Casey Nunez remembers.

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Nunez says, “I visited Brown, Cornell and Harvard; got a letter from Princeton but didn’t visit. I did visit LSU and MSU though. I loved MSU, but my track coach, Coach Bryan Fetzer, went to Harvard and that was another big pull.

“We decided on Harvard ; I got my acceptance letter the night of Prom. I was thrilled!”

Then came the financial obligations that are attached to an Ivy League University like Harvard. Scholarships through academics and the Junior Miss Program combined with special, low percentage loans to students like Nunez (who in addition to majoring in History will also be on the school’s elite Track team) were not enough to make it possible to send her. It appeared that she would not be possibly the first local high school student to obtain the Ivy League diploma, after all.

Nunez was prepared for the worst, when an addition error and some new funding sources came to light. Her dream was full steam ahead once again.

She says, “My visit to Harvard was just amazing. I met the other team members from the track team. We went shopping and walked Paul Revere’s Ride. I feel like we have already bonded and am thrilled to be majoring in History at a place that is so full of it!

“Harvard was founded in 1636; its purpose was to be a school for preachers. At the time it was formed, preachers had to be sent to England to be trained in ministry. William and Mary, Harvard and Princeton were originally seminaries. My faith is very important to me and I liked the fact that it was originally founded to further ministry.

“Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and reported to be one of the models for the Dining Hall in Harry Potter. It truely does look like the one in the movie.”

On Nunez’s list of things to do in preparation for her trip to college is: Buying lots of warm clothes; continuing to look for scholarships; trying not to stress out; and the hardest of all— saying good-bye to her mom, Kaysea.

“We are really close and it is going to be hard to say good-bye to my mom,” she says.

“My mom will be racking up frequent flyer miles and even my dad, who hates to travel, will be visiting,” she says with a big smile.

“I actually went to Maine for a mission trip when I was in the tenth grade. The family that I stayed with in Maine is only one hour away from Harvard. So in a way, I have a family that I know will look out for me, in case of an emergency, and until my mom gets there!”

What does Hannah Nunez hope that other high school age and younger students take away from this story?

Nunez says,“Younger students in Picayune should know that Harvard is an option for them. No matter what people say— it takes effort, but you can do it!”

Kaysea Nunez says, “We are so proud of her. She has worked very hard for several years and we know that she will do good things!”