Guyanese-born Kelly Hyles, 17, achieved a remarkable accomplishment, getting accepted into all eight IvyKelly HylesLeagues colleges in the US, as well as 13 other schools.While she is a straight A student, she is the first to admit that getting into so many schools didn’t come without a lot of hard work.Though she grew up in Queens, New York, Hyles spent the first decade of her life in a small village called Vryheid’s Lust, on the East Coast of Guyana.“They were a bit more serious about school,” said Hyles of children from her village. “Teachers are allowed to beat you – it wasn’t anything severe, but it keeps kids in check.” She moved to the US when she was 11.Hyles lives with her mother, who has set an example of what hard work looks like. Her mom works two jobs – she’s a home aide and a certified nursing assistant.Hyles commutes an hour and a half every day to the High School for Math, Science and Engineering in Harlem; one of New York’s nine specialised high schools.Hyles is one of less than two dozen black students in her senior class, which has more than 130 people. It’s a common theme throughout New York City’s specialised high schools – a fact she found troubling.“I am convinced that the decrease is not due to intellectual aptitude, but to lack of preparation and confidence,” she wrote in one her personal statements.So she did something about it. Hyles partnered with the DREAM programme, which prepares students for the Specialised High School Admissions Test. For three summers, she spent every weekday mentoring students at her former Brooklyn middle school.When Hyles took the SAT for the first time in May 2015, she wasn’t satisfied with the results. She channelled that energy into studying more. A classmate gave her text books he no longer needed.“My biggest sacrifice was sleep,” she said, adding that she averages about five hours a night. “Sometimes, I wanted to sleep late or go to the movies or a party with my friends, but I had to prioritise.” Hyles said she knew her mother wouldn’t have enough money to put her through school.“I knew I had to at least get academic scholarships, if not need-based scholarships,” she said, adding that college application fees were waved due to her financial standing.Being a great student isn’t enough, though. “I knew I needed to be well-rounded,” said Hyles, who is also a cheerleader and a dancer. “I heard stories of people that made amazing grades that didn’t get into the colleges they wanted.”So Hyles and two other students started a Black Student Union at her high school in 2014. “There were no clubs in which students could voice their outrage,” she wrote in one of her favourite college essays about the unrest after the shootings of unarmed black teens.The group hosts weekly meetings to discuss social issues and black “excellence.”Hyles, who was recently named a Ron Brown Scholar, said she was well aware of the negative stigmas ahead of her – she’s black and a woman.Instead of letting those beliefs win, she embraced things like her skin colour and her kinky hair. Hyles added that moving to a new country at a young age “was a culture shock,” but it taught her to be adaptable.She said she waved at a woman and said “Good afternoon, auntie” while riding her bike when she first moved to the US. That’s the typical greeting in Guyana, but not so in Queens. “She looked at me like I was crazy.”All of this has prepared her for wherever she lands. Hyles applied to 22 schools and was waitlisted only at Stanford University. She said that while Harvard has been her dream school, she’s considering all of her options.“Honestly, I’ve had so many changes in my life I feel like I can adapt to fit in anywhere,” she said.