Malik Sediqzad is the first Harvard-bound graduate from Jennings School District in 20 years. He will study architecture, which he said combines his love of math with his passion to draw.
“I feel like architecture is an art form, but it's functional,” Sediqzad said. “It's not just something that you can look at, it’s something you can use too.”
Sediqzad received a perfect score on the math portion of his ACT and an overall composite score of 35. He mentioned his math teacher and National Honor Society advisor Maria Gazi as an inspirational figure from the district.
“From my 15 years of experience in Jennings, he is the most intelligent student I've had,” Gazi said. “He is honest. He is a leader, by example. He is a wonderful person, very curious.”
Sediqzad grew up in Jennings and was nurtured by the district from an early age.
“The teachers and students that I've seen since I was five, they inspire me to do better,” Sediqzad said.
Jennings Superintendent Art McCoy met Sediqzad through the student’s involvement in various school organizations. He was involved with the Men on Business program, Construction Career Development Initiative and Student Council. He participated in all of these extracurricular activities and exceeded a 4.0 GPA while taking courses that put him two years ahead in college credit.
“Malik has always been an amazing young man,” McCoy said. “He's always been a high-earning GPA student. He has a wonderful sense of humor. He's been quiet. Over the six years I've known him, he blossomed into a leader.”
Sediqzad has a passion for language as well as math. During his middle-school years, the language app Duolingo was released. Now, he said he is familiar with many languages and is fluent in Italian, Spanish and French.
“You get to learn about the people who speak that language and their culture and their country,” Sediqzad said. “I feel like once you learn the different perspectives, a different perspective can help you in every way.”
Sediqzad also is a provider in his household. He recently returned to his job at Amazon after taking time off to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sediqzad also has volunteered at his school’s food bank to support the district’s charitable efforts.
Since Jennings School District switched to a virtual academy for social distancing, the district has given away 1,200 laptops, 3,600 meals of breakfast and lunch every week, and 60,000 pounds of groceries.
“Jennings has been giving $100,000 worth of food every week,” McCoy said. “That's amazing in and of itself and something that most school systems don't do.”
The district also introduced the youth to Harvard University. He had the opportunity to visit the campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, among other Ivy League schools, in a small group of students from Jennings Senior High School College Prep Academy.
“It was my first time on a plane,” Sediqzad said. “It was different how quickly you could go from places you’ve seen your whole life to a bigger city, and you can feel the potential of ending up there and what that means for the future ahead of that.”
Ashley Jones is a summer editorial intern supported by the Emma Bowen Foundation and the Democracy Fund.