Hillcrest Senior Harvard Bound with Full-Ride Scholarship

Andrea Tchinda Machedjou, who left Cameroon five years ago, will study computer science

Since she was a little girl living in Cameroon, Africa, attending Harvard University was Andrea Tchinda Machedjou’s dream.

“When I was younger, I knew Harvard was a good school,” the Hillcrest High School senior said. “I really didn’t know everything about Harvard, (but) it was just the name, like, all the people who went to Harvard, and just how successful (they) were.”

March 30 was the fateful day Tchinda Machedjou learned her dream had come true. After getting a rejection letter from Brown University, an email with Harvard’s decision arrived.

“I don’t think I opened (the email) waiting for an acceptance, but I wasn’t opening (and) waiting for a rejection,” Tchinda Machedjou said. “I would just open it just to open it. My mind was just blank.”

She opened the email, and there she saw it. “Congratulations!” She had been accepted to Harvard to study computer science.

“I was literally trembling and shaking,” Tchinda Machedjou said. “I called the family group chat, and I was having a casual conversation with them. And then I broke the news. I was like, ‘Hey, I got into Harvard.’ And they were like, ‘What?’ … and just screaming and yelling.”

About five years ago, her family moved from Cameroon to Dallas in search of better opportunities and a stable life.

At first, Tchinda Machedjou kept to herself in middle school — not knowing anyone or even the language. Then, a teacher, noticing Tchinda Machedjou’s height, recruited her to play basketball.

Without knowing how to play or any English, Tchinda Machedjou struggled at first. But she pushed through and decided to play basketball again once she got to Hillcrest. There, Tchinda Machedjou gained a newfound love for the sport through the help of her coaches and teammates and grew her leadership skills.

“She’s a leader on the basketball team,” Hillcrest Principal Terrence Florie said. “As you can see from that growth from freshman year to now, just being that young girl that’s to herself, and now she’s outgoing and doing what she can and influencing others to do the best that they can.”

Now on track to study computer science at Harvard on a full ride, Tchinda Machedjou hopes to pursue her dream of creating software to better education in places like her hometown in Cameroon.

“I love computer science because it’s just a way to create — a way to make your dreams come true,” she said. “With computer science, if you have an idea, you just think about the logic and then just write the code and programming.”

Tchinda Machedjou hopes her story can teach students to believe in themselves more and not to let imperfection or the lack of particular certifications get in the way of pursuing their dreams.

“I didn’t have any big extracurricular activity,” Tchinda Machedjou said. “I wasn’t in any engineering group. I was just doing my thing, just vibing a little bit, doing the things that I love, and I still got into Harvard. So, it’s something possible. Just keep going.”

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