Oct. 7, 2022 -- As is typical of so many high school seniors, Heights High’s Ashawn Sims has a big decision to make, choosing where to spend the next four years of his life. But his options are anything but typical. Because this young man already has full-ride scholarship offers to the nation’s top universities, including five of the eight schools in the Ivy League (Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania) as well as Georgetown, Colgate, Lehigh and Fordham among others.
As a defensive end for Heights High’s football team, Coach Mac Stephens says that Ashawn embodies all three pillars of the Heights Blueprint: achieving academic excellence, being socially responsible and giving athletic effort. “He has been offered these scholarships because he is the definition of the Heights Blueprint.”
Ashawn credits his academic and athletic success to the grown-ups in his life, especially his mother and grandmother who raised him, the coaching staff who believed in him and his teammates, and his high school teachers who have “been there for me every step of the way.” He routinely pops into the classrooms of his former teachers to update them on his still-growing list of college offers. In fact, it was the recent video of him telling AVID teacher Claudene McCoy that he’d been offered a full ride to Yale that brought this young man to the attention of the district and broader community.
Ashawn is aware that he’s extremely fortunate and admits that “it’s not every day that an African American male gets into the Ivy League.” His sights weren’t always set so high. At the end of his junior year football season, he received his first full scholarship offer from Bluefield State College, a Division 2 school in Bluefield, West Virginia. That moment felt like a game changer for him. “I honestly almost cried,” he says. “It let me know I could do this; I had a future.”
Since then, the prospects for that future have brightened considerably. Posting his junior year highlight video to Twitter attracted the attention of coaches across the country and Ashawn began getting phone calls and invitations to campus visits. As of now, he’s uncertain where he’ll end up. “I’m not going based on name or status,” he says. “I want a place that will feel like home.”
The seventeen-year old admits that whichever school he chooses, starting college is sure to be a big transition. But Ashawn is not a total newcomer when it comes to hanging out on a college campus. As a little boy, he would sometimes attend Cleveland State University alongside his mother when she was earning her Masters degree, bringing along his snacks and his iPad to keep busy. “That just shows how strong she is,” he says of the woman who is “both my mother and my father.”
He hopes to make his final decision by the end of December, fitting in a few more campus visits after the football season ends and deepening relationships with potential coaches. “I need to take my time and have no regrets,” he says. “This is a big decision.”