Hailey teen continues family legacy as she prepares for Harvard

HAILEY — The good news just came one week ago, but Malila Freeman still finds it hard to believe.

“Congratulations on your admission to Harvard! I hope you will join us in Cambridge this August as a member of the class of 2021,” read the email from Harvard University.

All the hard work paid off. Malila is headed to one of the world’s most prestigious institutions.

“I started crying,” said the Wood River High School senior. “Finally something big happened, I’m very happy.”

Malila owns a 4.1 weighted grade-point average and juggles four Advanced Placement courses: literature, U.S. government, environmental science and calculus.


Malila has a natural hunger to learn and she’s always been a ravenous student, blessed with an observant and quick mind,” said Eleanor Jewett Rogers, an English teacher at Wood River High. “She has learned and become one of the most accomplished students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching.”

Her inspiration to attend Harvard came at the age of five, and from her father. He played quarterback on the Harvard football team for three years and graduated in 1993.

“My dad loved that school,” Malila said. “I can’t wait to share the same experiences he had.”

Malila lost her father to melanoma cancer last year. She plans to continue her father’s legacy as a Harvard Pilgrim.

“My dad would have been the first person I told about my acceptance,” Malila said. “I know he would be very excited and proud.”

Her father lived on campus at the John Winthrop House and Malila hopes she will end up in the same dormitory.

“It would mean a lot to live where my dad was,” Malila said.

Malila plans to study psychology and become a developmental therapist. Her experience with grief led her to have an interest in the human mind and its functions.

“After seeing a therapist, I think they have a unique job which I want to pursue,” Malila said. ”

When Malila isn’t studying, she’s dancing, performing in orchestra class, or involved in the Model UN Club or the National Honors Society.

“What impressed me most about teaching and observing Malila was that she carried on, through moments of grief, to find joy in learning,” Rogers said. “I worried about her but I also realized that academics gave her something else to think about, something to celebrate.”

When Malila leaves for Massachusetts in August, the hardest part will be leaving her family’s one-acre organic farm that she worked on since she was a 10-year-old. Every summer, Malila bags lettuce that her younger brother picks and helps sell tomatoes, squash, pea shoots, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, and radishes at local farmers’ markets.

Malila Freeman working on the family farm (Shooting Star Farm).

“Owning a business is a lot of work and I don’t take that for granted,” Malila said. “I look up to my parents for what they started.”

Fun facts about Malila Freeman

  • Favorite drink? Lemonade
  • Favorite sport to watch? Football
  • What are the first three songs on your current music playlist? “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver, “Capsize” by Frenship and “Open Arms” by Journey
  • You just got a free plane ticket to go anywhere. Where are you going?  I’d go to Germany, France, or Switzerland and hike the Alps. 
  • Three things you can’t live without? Dancing, books and chocolate
  • Favorite emoji? screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-8-46-17-am

Andrew Reed

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