Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
In our effort to feature profiles of the best and brightest African American youth locally, nationally and global, we are proud and indeed honored to share this update of two past outstanding profiles who are still and very much Young, Gifted and Black.
Saheela Ibraheem and Stephen Stafford have been included in the recent listing of TheBestSchools. org as being among the “World’s 50 Smartest Teenagers”.
The than 15 year-old Saheela was featured in our YG & B series last year on October 6, 2012 when she became the youngest student admitted to Harvard.
Stephen, also at at the age of 15 was working on his triple major in pre-med, math and computer science in his junior year at Morehouse.
His exemplar accomplishment was shared in our series also last year on March 24, 2012.
Arranged in alphabetical order, Saheela and Stephen are listed as numbers 21 and 34 respectively in The- BestSchools compilation of the world’s smartest teens.
As recorded in Best- Schools, Saheela was not only accepted into Harvard University as the youngest student ever to attend that campus, but she was also accepted into 12 other colleges on scholarships to include MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Brown, Princeton, Columbia, and the University of Chicago.
Our YG & B writing reveals that the Nigerian born New Jersey native was torn between going to MIT and Harvard.
But a visit to both campuses in April of 2011 made the choice easy. According to her mother, Shakirat Ibraheem,
“She went to Harvard and fell in love with the school.”
Now 16, Saheela plans to major in either neurobiology or neuroscience with hopes of becoming a scientist.
Her interest is in the study of how the brain works. While in Nigeria, Saheela skipped the sixth and ninth grades.
The Ibraheems transferred her from public school to the more challenging Wardlaw School where her teachers described her as an “old school” and “mature for her age.”
Under the tutelage of private schooling, Saheela received a perfect 800 score on the Mathematics section of the SAT, a 790 in writing and a 750 in reading – a total SAT tabulation of 2,340.
Her GPA scoring was between 96 and 97 on the 100 point scale.
When her parents moved to Piscataway, New Jersey, they enrolled her in Wartdlaw-Hatridge School in Edison.
In her 2011 senior year, she was selected as the winner of a National achievement scholarship award of $2,500 and was then listed among the 800 outstanding Black American high school seniors who have won Achievement Scholarship awards through the National Achievement Scholarship program.
This Harvard teen also speaks Yoruba, Arabic, Spanish and Latin in addition to English and plays softball, soccer, and the trombone.
She credits her parents with teaching her to love learning and to work hard. As quoted in YG&B, she adds: “I try my best in everything I do.
Anyone who is motivated can work wonders.”
It was actually in an October 18, 2013 posting of The Black Youth Project where YG&B was informed of Stephen’s listing among the “World’s 50 Smartest Teenagers.”
A review of this content joyously revealed the inclusion of Saheela.
Now an accomplished pianist, Stephen began learning how to play the piano at the age of 2.
He had mastered his multiplication tables by the time he was in kindergarten.
Traditional schooling was too slow and repetitive for him.
It was at that time that his mother, Michelle Brown-Stafford, decided on homeschooling because, as cited in YG&B, “she and her husband had to keep track of him because he is an African American male, and we didn’t want to lose him and we didn’t want him to become a statistic.”
He was homeschooled up until the age of 9 where at this point he began to outpace his mother’s homeschooling in math and science.
Our young lad was even then studying literature from college textbooks. Upon reaching 11 where his mother became really challenged with teaching Algebra II, his parents decided to enroll him in Morehouse College to audit mathematics.
In his first class, College Algebra, he scored 105. His next course was precalculus where his grade was 99.
Now at the age of 16, Stephen, as earlier mentioned, is earning credits towards his triple major at Morehouse in pre-med, mathematics and computer science.
Georgia law requires a student to be 16 to graduate from high school.
According to Best- Schools, he will receive his high school diploma one year before he receives his college degree.
His plan is to continue on at Morehouse’s School of Medicine with a specialty in obstetrics and infertility.
His vision is to graduate from Medical school when he is 22.
“I want to help babies come into the world. I’d also like to develop my own computer operating system,” as quoted in YG & B.
Morehouse computer science professor Sonya Dennis also as noted in YG & B says of her pupil that, “I’ve never taught a student as young as Stephen, and it’s been amazing. She adds that he is “motivating other students to do better and makes them want to step up their game.”
Stephen has been interviewed by CNN, received calls from Oprah and Katie Couric, and was a guest on the Tyra Banks show. The Georgia House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing his achievements.
He was offered a job by a well renowned software company which he respectfully declined.
He was invited to speak at the NAACP’s 77th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet in St. Petersburg, Florida on June 12, 2010 and this past February 18, he was honored with the Youth Academic Award at the 100 Black Men 7th Annual Youth Summit 2012 in Decatur, Georgia.
Regarding the learning challenges of African American youth, Stephen says in YG & B of our young people that, “they have the capacity for learning, but if they are not challenged, they lose interest.
He adds that in his thinking, “Ninety-nine percent of kids start out liking elementary school.
But around middle and high school, many get bored and lose interest.” From both the Saheela and Stephen profiles in YG & B are lessons that could be of benefit for our children.
Saheela in several featured articles continuously underscores the point that it was the support and guidance of her family that laid the foundation for her academic success.
At 16 and now among the world’s smartest teens, she is now on her way to becoming a research scientist.
Stephen leaves us with the inspired thought that, “I’ve done a lot.
But I can do a whole lot more.
I want to live up to my potential.
Potential doesn’t have a limit.
It’s like a rainbow.
You can constantly keep chasing it and you will never get to it.
And I know I don’t have any limits as long as I keep trying.”