Determined Teen Overcomes Obstacles to Get Accepted at MIT
by Stacy Jones
During an admissions interview with an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Everson Auguste was told the venerable institution was not looking for the variable “X” as much as it is for students with the potential to grow into “X.”
Whatever this X factor is, Auguste has it.
Of 10 Polk County students interviewed by MIT for the class of 2012, Auguste was the only one chosen.
On the way to achieving this honor, Auguste overcame the death of his mother and a move during his sophomore year to a Polk County high school not known for scholarship.
Auguste (pronounced august-eh) is a Gates Millennium Scholar who graduated in May from Haines City High School.
As a Gates Millennium scholar, his hefty MIT bill – upward of $50,000 for one academic year – will be funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Auguste also has been awarded a scholarship from the American Chemical Society.
Despite his achievements, Auguste remains anxious about the start of his first college semester.
“I’m going to be disadvantaged compared to those MIT kids,” Auguste said. “They’re geniuses.”
Auguste, who plans to go into chemical engineering, said that after talking to fellow incoming MIT freshmen on the Facebook Web site, he plans to brush up on calculus and physics before heading north in late August.
Proud Haines City High School teachers describe Auguste as a quiet, unassuming and engaging student who blossomed before their eyes.
Julie Roberts, the school’s career lab specialist, said Auguste has always seemed amazed at his own success.
“He is more astonished than anyone at his good fortune,” she said.
Deborah Ford, AP Literature and Honors English 3 teacher at the school, said Auguste was “probably one of my most diligent students, also probably one of the most humble. It’s almost like he didn’t think he’d get it.”
Auguste, 18, and his sister Gersuze, 10, moved to Haines City from Orlando in 2005 to live with his aunt and uncle following the death of their mother. His father lives in New York City.
“Other than, of course, God, my greatest motivation is my mom. She died the summer during my 10th-grade year, on Aug. 28. She had been diagnosed with lupus,” Auguste said.
“They never said ‘We’re expecting her to die in three months,'” he said.
The initial prognosis had been that his mother, Suzette Auguste, could live with the disease for up to 15 years.
“She always let me and my sister know that we were her No. 1 priority,” he said.
In Orlando, he attended Edgewater High School, ranked by Newsweek magazine as one of the best high schools in the country.
In Haines City, he came to a high school given a failing grade by the state.
However, Auguste discovered Haines City High School has its own merits.
“One of the most important differences was that I finally had time to do stuff like band and try out some sports,” he said.
A saxophone player, he became one of the leaders of the marching band. He tried out for both the tennis and soccer teams, having more success with tennis.
Academically, he took the hardest classes the school offered – honors and advanced placement.
He became a student leader, his teachers said.
In his AP macroeconomics course, “he would get up on the board and show how something was done without any prompting,” teacher Paul Roberts said.
“He was never one to stick out in a crowd. He was quiet until he had a question, but he wouldn’t let up until he had an answer,” Roberts said. “When it came time to take the AP test, he told everyone to be prepared and get lots of sleep.”
In his spare time, he gave pep talks about the FCAT to younger children to emphasize that grades do matter in second and third grades, teacher Ford said.
Teachers at the high school are thrilled with Auguste’s accomplishments – a feather in the cap for a school long connected with failure, which, they say, is getting better.
“We were an F school; the only F in the county,” Roberts said. “The kids worked so hard. (Principal Deborah) Elmore cracked down on discipline and dress code.”
Polk County’s School Superintendent Gail McKinzie said Haines City High School is improving.
“There’s been a huge change in the school in terms of academic improvement. Students are very supportive of one another and want their school to be a very important school,” she said.
Auguste starting becoming interested in attending MIT between the 10th and 11th grades.
“A lot of people were talking about what college they were going to,” he said. “I knew back then I wanted to go into engineering. I found out about MIT and saw that they had lots of Nobel laureates as alumni.”
According to MIT’s Web site, 72 of the 777 individuals and 20 organizations to win Nobel prizes have been associated with the university.
In his salutatorian speech at graduation, Auguste gave special thanks to his AP teachers. He also expressed gratitude for his father, his Aunt Jonette and Uncle Jean Lauture, and his church.
The church gave him a huge plaque, Auguste said, smiling and holding his arms out at full length. The plaque features an article with his senior picture, his full name and four verses from Proverbs.
“The person who gave it to me said, ‘When you’re at MIT, put this by your bed and think of me,'” Auguste said.