When academic excellence isn’t enough, summa cum laude graduate asks for help to get to Harvard

Jordan Jefferson has already made an indelible mark in academia. The JSU graduate is an aspiring city leader, who is asking for the community to rally around him as he prepares to pursue his master’s degree at Harvard University this fall. (Photo special to JSU)

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Attending Harvard University for graduate school was an elusive idea for Jordan Jefferson, who received his bachelor’s in political science from JSU this past spring.

“I don’t stand a chance,” he thought regarding the Ivy League institution, which many believe to be the personification of prestigious colleges.

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Jefferson’s doubt was not solely self-manifested. Extremely competitive, Harvard accepts roughly 5 percent of its annual 40,000 applicants with an average SAT score of 2235.

So even for a Rhodes Scholar finalist like Jefferson, the notion was somewhat intimidating. But he decided to take his shot “because I’m not afraid of receiving a no.” And then, the seemingly unimaginable happened; Jefferson received a “yes.” He is now headed to Harvard University this fall, albeit online due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“They sent an email notification saying the results were in, but I assumed I didn’t get in,” said Jefferson. “So, I didn’t even check it. I just went back to playing Madden” until Jaylen Hackett, a mentor urged him to open the email that began with “Congratulations.”

“I was like what the heck. I was so happy,” said the 22-year-old.

Now that the seemingly hard part is over, Jefferson is yet faced with another hurdle – cost. A long-standing high achiever, Jefferson was valedictorian of his graduating class at Callaway High School. At JSU, he maintained a 3.9 GPA, while SGA president and a student-athlete.

Despite his academic excellence, he was unable to attain a Harvard scholarship.

This leaves him with a hefty yearly price tag of an estimated $67,000.

So, he and his family established a Go Fund Me account requesting donations to help cover the tuition and fees associated with acquiring a master’s degree in public policy. On the website, Jefferson penned:

“Getting accepted into Harvard University is truly a dream come true. So far, my goal is to take Harvard’s rich education and bring it back to the people of Mississippi through economic development. However, I sadly, did not receive a scholarship to fund my education. Please help me get to Harvard University so that I can access the knowledge, expertise and network I need to make a better Mississippi. I know this is terrible timing to ask for help considering we’re going through a global health crisis, but this is my best option.”

Based on the odds of acceptance, Jefferson hit the academic lottery. Harvard is arguably considered the most iconic university in the world. Eight of the U.S. presidents were Harvard graduates, including Barack Obama, who the majority of Americans named the best president of their lifetime, according to a 2018 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center.

With political aspirations of his own, Jefferson voiced plans to one day become mayor of Mississippi’s capital city. “I grew up in Jackson. I’ve always loved this city. I would love to provide others with opportunities like I’ve had,” said the former JSU wide receiver. “I want to give youth more resources to express themselves artistically and athletically. Being the leader of this great city would help me accomplish that.”

Throughout his life, Jefferson played soccer, ran track and played football. His father, Joe Jefferson, is a former NFL player, who once served as an offensive football coach for Jackson State. Growing up, Jefferson accompanied his mother, Tiffany, a dance instructor, to class because “it was much cheaper than paying a babysitter,” he joked.

From there, Jefferson became well-versed in tap, hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, ballet, modern and African dance styles. He has worked with dance greats like Judith Jamison, and performed at Carnegie Hall and the Grand Ole Opry. Now, after receiving an HBCU education, the athlete, scholar, member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and professional dancer is asking for help to add Ivy League graduate to his growing list of accomplishments.

Please click the Go Fund Me link if you would like to assist.

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