High School Grad Who Was Born In Prison & Finished 3rd In Her Class Goes To Harvard Against All Odds

Despite her rough start, she was able to make it this far with some help from some very important people.

Sky Castner, Harvard logo, Harvard campus Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock; Instagram; Harvard via Canva

A young woman from Montgomery County in Texas recently graduated from Conroe High School third in her class and is now preparing to matriculate to Harvard University in the fall.

18-year-old Sky Castner came from rough, humbling beginnings and rose to the top with help from her community to the point where she received assistance from a Boston University professor to write a stellar college application to the Ivy League school she’s soon to attend.


The first line in her Harvard University application says ‘I was born in prison.’

“He helped me to tell my story in the best way possible,” she said, referring to the professor who helped her write her college application.

Castner, who had originally told her story to the Houston Chronicle, was born in Galveston County Jail — her mother was imprisoned at the time. Her father would eventually pick her up from the county jail and raise her as a single dad.

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But these figures weren’t the only important role models that Castner had guiding her along the way. She also had help from her mentor, Mona Hamby, who is completely unrelated to Harvard or her high school and actually met the graduate in elementary school.


The two met at Reaves Elementary School when the staff thought that the young girl would be a perfect fit for CISD’s Project Mentor program, meant to show kids in need a little more love.

“I was given a paper about her. Her hero was Rosa Parks, her favorite food was tacos from Dairy Queen and she loved to read. I thought this sounds like a bright little girl,” Hamby told the Houston Chronicle. “I still have that paper today.”

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

Hamby posts about Castner regularly on her Instagram and gushes about all of the accolades she has been able to achieve, including her acceptance into Harvard University.


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Mona Hamby claims that Sky Castner had set her goal for Harvard since elementary school.

In an Instagram post made on April 29, 2023, Hamby wrote “Girl set a goal to go to Harvard in elementary school despite being born in poverty. Received full scholarship to attend Harvard in 2023.”

But this wasn’t the only post she made about her successes. She also has a post for the time Castner finished paying off her car, as well as for when she received an award for being 5th in her class — “What is next for this girl?” Clearly, a full scholarship to Harvard University, and she was even there for her tour of the campus.

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


Despite her rough upbringing, Castner still claims to have seen value in her life before Mona was a part of it — just as much as after they met.

“It was a very different environment than I grew up in and that’s not a bad thing,” the 2023 graduate told the Chronicle. “Everything that Mona taught me was very valuable in the same way that everything that I went through before Mona was very valuable.”

In a Harvard Class of 2027 post on Instagram, Castner claims that she’s interested in studying psychology, and philosophy, and is planning to pursue a career in law.


“I am beyond excited to be attending Harvard College in the fall,” the teen wrote. “… I cannot wait to meet my fellow classmates so do not be afraid to reach out!”

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Isaac Serna-Diez is an Assistant Editor who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics.