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29th May 2023

Teenager who was born in prison is accepted into Harvard University

Charlie Herbert

Teenager who was born in prison is accepted into Harvard University

An incredible story

A teenager in the US who was born behind bars will study at Harvard University this autumn.

Sky Castner’s mother was serving time at Galveston County Jail when she gave birth to Sky. Sky’s father took custody of her and raised her as a single parent.

Now, the 18-year-old, from Texas, has received a full scholarship at one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

The opening line of her application letter to Harvard read: “I was born in prison,” and this clearly had the intended impact of grabbing their attention.

Sky had always been driven and determined at school and was a “voracious reader” throughout her education. Her teachers at Reaves Elementary school noticed this, and enrolled her in a mentor program so should could have extra time with a caring adult.

Sky Castner, 18, is planning to study a law degree at Harvard (Facebook)

Sky was matched up with program volunteer Mona Hamby, and she credits Mona for a lot of her success.

Mona provided care and guidance to the teenager, even outside of their weekly meetings. She told the Houston Chronicle how she recognised that Sky would need more support and help than most other kids due to her difficult upbringing.

Mona said: “I was given a paper about her. Her hero was Rosa Parks, her favourite food was tacos from Dairy Queen and she loved to read.

“I thought this sounds like a bright little girl, I still have that paper today.

“She told me ‘I’ve been to jail’, I said ‘No, that can’t be right’. I knew that I can’t just go eat lunch with this kid once a week, she needed more.”

Mona became a mother figure for Sky, who hasn’t spoken to her birth mother since she was 14. It was Mona that helped Sky get glasses, took her to her first salon haircut, and helped her attend dentist appointments.


Along with the huge role Mona has played in her life, Sky says that she thinks the challenges of her childhood have ended up making her the person she is today.

She said: “It was a very different environment than I grew up in and that’s not a bad thing.

“Everything that Mona taught me was very valuable in the same way that everything that I went through before Mona was very valuable.”

Sky is planning on pursuing a law degree at Harvard, which she toured with Mona and her husband Randy in March 2022.

After this tour, she became determined to make it to the university.

“After that trip, I saw her love for the school intensify,” Hamby said.

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