Best friends earn their way to college

EMMETT — They’ve been best friends since the fifth grade.

Emmett High seniors Shayleah Jenkins and Elise Layne met on the elementary school playground. They connected because they had a lot in common:

  • Both were being raised by single moms.
  • Both loved school.
  • Both had the desire to go to college.
  • And both knew college wasn’t possible because their families couldn’t afford it.

So they made a goal to earn their own way to college — and do it together.

Shayleah Jenkins

Their play dates turned into study dates. At times it was stressful, said Shayleah, “I had no clue how I was going to afford college and I knew a scholarship was the only option.”

But their friendship, teamwork and determination paid off.

They are ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in their senior class with near-perfect grade-point averages and each completed more than 20 dual-credit courses in high school.

Those high school results earned both full-ride scholarships to nationally ranked East Coast colleges. They’ll be going a long way from home but they’re doing it together — their schools are just 11 miles apart.

“It is insane,” Elise said. “We get to experience the college adventure together.”

They each received scholarships worth nearly $252,000 — Shayleah to Haverford College in Haverford, Pa., which ranks No. 18 in the nation as a national liberal arts college, and Elise to Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa., which  ranks No. 3 in the nation as a national liberal arts college.

Elise Layne

Shayleah, will be the first in her family to go to college. She plans to study English and dreams of becoming a journalist or working for a publishing business.

“Shayleah’s literary scope and ability to view reading from multiple perspectives are mature beyond her years, and this greatly enhances the level of understanding in all students,” said Tina Myers, an English teacher at Emmett High. “She may be reserved in nature, but her mind is going to make a mark on our world.”

Elise, Emmett’s No. 1 ranked senior, plans to study biochemistry and her dream is to work at the Centers for Disease Control and make medicine.

“Elise always turns in high quality work and she should be proud of her accomplishments at our school,” said Stuart Peterson, a Spanish teacher at Emmett High. “She remains humble and is the best role model for students.”

Shayleah and Elise were helped by QuestBridge, a non-profit that connects high-achieving, low-income students to the nation’s best colleges. They learned about the program through an email invitation with a recommendation by Emmett High administration.

“It was a perfect match,” Elise said. “This scholarship will open up so many opportunities for me that I never had before.”

Fun facts about Shayleah

  • Favorite drink? Coke
  • Favorite sport to watch? Tennis
  • What are the first three songs on your current music playlist? “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads, “Dancin’ in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen and “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell 
  • You just got a free plane ticket to go anywhere. Where are you going? Italy 
  • Three things you can’t live without? Internet, chapstick and conditioner
  • Something most don’t know about you? I’m terrified of deer 
  • Favorite emoji? I never use them 

Fun facts about Elise

  • Favorite drink? Iced Tea
  • Favorite sport to watch? Tennis
  • You just got a free plane ticket to go anywhere. Where are you going? Washington Square Park in New York
  • Three things you can’t live without? Macaroni and Cheese, my best friends and new music
  • Something most don’t know about you? I have, and still can, eat 40 chicken nuggets in one sitting
  • Favorite emoji? 

Andrew Reed

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