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Get Schooled

Your source to discuss and learn about education in Georgia and the nation and share opinions and news with Maureen Downey

He defied odds to get into Stanford. Now people want to say he didn't earn it.

A Stanford-bound teen from Chicago had an uncomfortable conversation with his dentist that led him to pen a Facebook posting that's going viral.

I am sharing Guillermo Camarillo' post because it addresses many of the issues we discuss often on the blog. (On Facebook, Guillermo uses the pseudonym Pomarillo.) You can read more about him on GoFundMe, Linked In and in this news story.)

I also am sharing the 18-year-old's followup Facebook post in which he addresses the negative comments he's received about his posting.

I have no doubt Guillermo not only belongs at Stanford, but that he will do well there majoring in biomedical engineering. He is an AP scholar as a result of his high AP scores.

Good luck to him.

Here is his original post:

So I went to the dentist today. And wrote an open letter of my experience:

Dear Dentist,

Today, I came into your office after leaving work early. Little did you know that I had to walk 1.5 miles to be able to make my appointment. My mother and father couldn't drive me because they were busy working. But, it was imperative for me to have my teeth cleaned before going to school. So I decided that I would walk that distance. I came into your office hoping that things will go by fast. They did. I was called and I sat on a chair where a lady vigorously cleaned my teeth (it's fine tho, I really did need a cleaning). The lady then asked me if I wanted or needed braces, humorously I told her I did, but I couldn't afford them. She then told me you will come and talk to me. You then approached me and asked me if I wanted braces. I told you that I tried a year ago to get braces through a government program but was denied help. You then asked me if I wanted to try to apply to get help again (Note this government help takes weeks or months to be approved). I told you that it wouldn't be of any use cause I was going away for college and I will be far away (I wouldn't be able to make monthly appointments for my braces). You looked at me perplexed. I nonchalantly said, "I'm going to Stanford.' Your initial reaction was surprised. But, were you surprised because you had a Stanford student on your chair or because you had a minority, low-income student, that needed government help to get braces, and would be attending Stanford on your chair? I believe it was the latter.

You immediately jumped to ask me what my ACT score was? It was weird cause I have never had a professional ask me that. I answered honestly. Your response after that clearly showed what you were thinking. You sarcastically said "Wow you got (blank) on the ACT?! And you got into Stanford?" I was confused, I had always thought my ACT score wasn't too bad. I mean, I got admitted into many other schools other than Stanny. You then said, "Well my daughter got a 35 and she didn't get into Stanford. She goes to Umich." In my head I thought, "Wow that's great, UMich is a good school." But you didn't stop there, you kept going. You said, "Well when you have kids from neighborhoods like THESE, like you know, ENGLEWOOD. It's easy for them to get into Harvard or Stanford with a (states my score) ." In my mind, I was confused. Did he really just say that? But you didn't stop. You kept going. You said, "You know, when kids go to schools around here. (AKA public schools in minority neighborhoods) It's easier for them to get into schools like Stanford. My daughter goes to a school where like 20 kids get perfect ACT scores." I stayed quiet. He continued, "You're very lucky. Consider yourself very lucky. Getting into Stanford is like competing on The Voice, you know, when you get the buzzer."

Wait what? So you're telling me that 18 years of rigorous hard work is like going on The Voice. You're telling me that pure luck got me admitted into not only Stanford, but schools like Princeton, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, and WASHU, and waitlisted at Tufts, Penn, and Columbia (I didn't tell him this btw)?! To say that I was admitted into a school simply because of my background is ridiculous. OF COURSE, YOUR DAUGHTER WAS GOING TO SCORE HIGHER THAN ME.

You're a dentist that can afford to send her to a school that will help her achieve a score like that. You're an educated dentist, with a college degree and dentistry degree. My parents, two undocumented immigrants that only obtained a grammar school education, couldn't afford to send me to private schools. Yes, I may have grown up in a neighborhood that doesn't have many young kids going to schools like Stanford. But it doesn't mean that people where I come from don't have the potential to succeed at Stanford. We deserve to go to places like Stanford.

You belittled me. You labeled me. Yes, my name gave it off. But you were completely ignorant of my struggles. Little do you know that I grew up in a house where Spanish was only spoken. I had to learn English on my own. I grew up in a household where at times we couldn't afford to pay our rent or didn't have enough food for the whole week. I grew up in a household where my parents were clueless of the college application process, and it was up to me to make sure I submitted all my papers for college. I grew up in a household where college seemed like a distant dream. I grew up in a household where I will not only be the first one attending college, but I will be the first one to leave my home. So yes, your daughter scored higher than me on the ACT. But, she literally scored a few points higher than me. If those few points mean that she is better than me, then you are neglecting a lot. You are neglecting that I faced more struggles than your daughter. You are neglecting that all odds were against me. But you feel entitled to say that I got "lucky" and that "because of where I come from" I got into Stanford. Little do you know that at a young age I excelled in classrooms. My mother kept transferring me schools every time we moved to a new, cramped apartment.

But I excelled. I went to a high school 7 miles from my house to be able to be pushed more. I attended one of the best high schools in Chicago and was accepted to other top ranked high schools in Chicago. So If pure luck gets you into some of the best schools in the country, then there is something wrong with our admissions process. Maybe just maybe, the admissions panel didn't see perseverance or strength in your daughter. After all, her father, a dentist, is able to help her achieve a score like that through financial help or even tutoring.

Maybe just maybe, the admissions panel saw beyond a score when seeing my profile. It doesn't mean that I'm better than your daughter. It means that I have the strength, the determination, the perseverance to succeed in a place like Stanford. And maybe the admissions panel didn't see that in your daughter? Cause trust me, schools like Stanford look at everything, not only scores.


The poor Latino boy that needs government help to get braces, but is still Stanford bound ;)

As you might imagine, this posting has created a stir and a backlash. While many applaud Guillermo's many accomplishments, others have not been kind or supportive. He chose to respond to their hostility and criticisms by writing:

So, I am really giving many people here the benefit of the doubt. Maybe some of you are clueless or some of you jump to conclusions. But, here are some important points I will like to make.

  1. I got a full-ride to Stanford through a private organization called QuestBridge.
  2. I graduated with a perfect GPA and took 11 AP courses in high school. (UW GPA: 4.0 Weighted GPA: 5.24)
  3. My ACT score ranges from 30-36 (I will not state my actual score because I will like to keep that private). I scored in the top 95 percentile in the country.
  4. My tuition isn't paid for by any taxpayers. I am going to a PRIVATE institution where I receive grants from the pool of money they have raised through alumni and donors.
  5. This is not fake. I did not disclose the information of the dentist or of his office because I didn't make this post with the intention to get back at him. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he doesn't know of the struggles that students like me face, maybe he's clueless? Therefore, I refrained to release his name because I am sure that he is not a bad person. I believe people can change and if he has come across my letter I hope it moves him to change. Also, he is a man with a family and I would hate to put his career in jeopardy. I didn't do this post out of anger. I did it to bring awareness to the reality that many students face across the nation.
  6. I participated in EC's ranging from interning at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, playing varsity volleyball, and competing in Mathletes.
  7. Many of you really don't deserve an explanation from me. But, I felt obligated to state these things because no, being a low-income, Latino, doesn't mean that you automatically score lower than others or are inferior to other groups. After all, I did score better than most of the kids in this country.
  8. I belong in Stanford. I will prosper in Stanford. If you are bothered by me going to Stanford, too bad cause Stanford is my home. I belong there. And so do the thousands of other minority, underprivileged (including whites) students in college campuses across the nation.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.