Instead, Hughes took her father and her laptop to her mother’s grave, and together they opened the acceptance letter and celebrated.
“I’m at my mommy’s grave to open my status update from Duke, because I wanted her to be part of it,” Hughes says in a video of the moment, which was uploaded to YouTube. “I’m freaking out.”
After taking a deep breath, Hughes starts to cry. “Daddy, I got in! Oh my God, I got in!”
“I told you!” Hughes’ dad, also through tears, cheers.
“Mommy I got it!” Hughes says as she turns to her mother’s grave.
Hughes lost her mom unexpectedly in 2016 and waited 16 hours after initially receiving the email from Duke to open it so that she could do it with her mother by her side.
Hughes told In The Know she knew from the moment she started applying to schools that she was somehow going to incorporate her mom in the process.
“She is my role model and I knew how much her support meant to me. I love her presence and I knew I would need it during such an uncertain time,” she said.
Hughes maintained a 4.1 GPA, has competitively danced ballet for 15 years and has dedicated over 200 hours to community service — participating in mental health initiatives and Black Lives Matter.
As she finishes up her senior year of high school, Hughes can’t believe the outpouring of support she’s gotten since sharing the video.
“I don’t have the vocabulary to express my gratitude and astonishment for all the kind words and support and donations I’ve received,” Hughes said. “It is truly unbelievable and my heart is so full.”
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