18-year-old Black teen with autism accepted into 19 colleges with $500K in financial aid

BY Ben Ebuka Oji October 11, 2023 12:27 AM EDT
Kymera Mitchell with her mother, Kalaveeta Mitchell, at graduation practice in the parking lot of Alcott College Prep High School on May 25, 2023. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)
Kymera Mitchell. Photo credit: Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune

Eighteen-year-old Kymera Mitchell, a resilient Black student from Chicago, has notched a series of incredible accomplishments despite her battle with autism and PTSD. Upon graduating in May 2023 from Alcott College Prep in the North Center neighborhood with a remarkable 4.0 GPA, she was accepted into 19 colleges, nine of which offered her full scholarships.

Reflecting on her high school graduation, Kymera expressed on CBS News, “I feel accomplished. I feel stress-free.” Her achievement is remarkable, having received acceptance letters from prestigious institutions such as DePaul, Loyola, Howard, and Hampton universities, accompanied by over $500,000 in financial aid.

Her mother, Kalaveeta Mitchell, proudly recounted, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! She has this amount of money and she has full rides to some of these schools!’ Every year, she was on the honor roll. And with each year, she just got better.”

Kymera’s excellence extends beyond her academic prowess; she also excelled in sports, participating in the Special Olympics, floor hockey, and track and field. The accolades she received piled up, with over 30 medals, a testament to her dedication and drive.

In her college journey, Kymera aims to pursue graphic design, and she has a profound piece of advice for fellow students who face health challenges: “Live your hopes and dreams as much as you can, don’t let anyone tell you can’t do this. I wouldn’t let anyone who doesn’t have a disability try and stop me from what I’m doing.”

Kymera’s path to academic success was not without its challenges. Her mother, Kalaveeta Mitchell, vividly recalls the initial fear when Kymera received her first diagnosis, and doctors suggested that she might struggle academically compared to her peers. Back then, there was limited research and support available, leaving the family with few resources to rely on.

Kalaveeta Mitchell highlighted the need to advocate for her daughter’s right to receive an inclusive education. The educational system didn’t always accommodate students with impairments, making it an uphill battle.

Another significant challenge they faced was dispelling misconceptions about Kymera, emphasizing the importance of recognizing her true self beyond her condition. She pointed out that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was sometimes misunderstood as misbehavior, rather than an emotional response stemming from trauma.

There is still a pervasive belief that individuals with disabilities cannot match their non-disabled peers, a misconception that Kalaveeta Mitchell strongly disputes. She also revealed that Kymera’s autism occasionally interfered with her comprehension and led to selective mutism, particularly during stressful situations. Nevertheless, Kymera overcame these challenges, maintaining a flawless 4.0 GPA and securing over $530,000 in scholarship funds. She accumulated more than 20 academic awards, making her an outstanding achiever.

Reflecting on their journey, Kalaveeta Mitchell shared, “I am overwhelmed with joy. My heart overflows.” Kymera’s exceptional accomplishments have made her a role model for children with autism and special needs.

In an empowering message to parents of autistic children, Kalaveeta Mitchell offered this valuable advice: ” “If you have a kid that’s autistic, never ever let anyone in the medical community or the school community tell you that your child ‘cannot’ anything,” Kalaveeta Mitchell said. “There may be levels to what they can do, but I can assure you that they are, a lot of times, smarter than you.”