Lanarkshire teen to get a taste of university life at Harvard

Shantelle Bambrick and three other young Scots are heading to the Ivy League university for the summer of a lifetime.

Who Cares Scotland: Lanarkshire teen to get a taste of university life at Harvard

A teenager who has been in foster care since she was a child is to attend Harvard as part of a once-in-a-lifetime summer project.

Shantelle Bambrick, 17, achieved four A’s at Higher level at Lesmahagow Academy and is set to begin her degree in neuroscience at Glasgow University in September.

But she will first head to the prestigious Ivy League university in Boston for seven weeks with three other young Scots to learn from world-leading academics, meet new people and get a taste of college life.

She told STV News: “I still can’t believe I am going. It doesn’t actually feel like it’s going to happen. I’m nervous but super excited.

“It’s going to be great for my employability prospects and I’m looking forward to meeting new people.

Shantelle, Natasha, Ethan and Katie are heading to Harvard this summer

“When you’re care experienced it can feel more difficult to branch out on top of how difficult it can already be.”

Shantelle lived with her grandparents full-time until she was aged around nine before entering care. Her grandmother has vascular dementia and now lives in a care home.

She said they instilled in her the importance of education and hard work in her early years and credits them with helping pave her path to success.

The teenager added: “My aunt told me my grandpa would just read with me for hours. He was really an advocate for making sure I did as well no matter what was going on.

“My gran was so happy when I told her I was going to Harvard. We are very close.

“She is an incredibly resilient, generous person. She lights up every room and I have always looked up to her.”

Shantelle also praised her foster carers for pushing her to excel in school and supporting her every step of the way.

“They went to all of my parents evenings,” she said. “They’ve always been behind the scenes cheering me on.

“They’re really inspirational and the most encouraging people.”

As part of the seven-week Harvard Summer School, students will study two university-level academic programmes from a selection of over 400 expert-led courses.  

They will take part in social and sporting activities, live in on-campus dorms and have all meals provided for them in the dining room halls.

It will prepare Shantelle for beginning her degree at Glasgow University – an ambition she has had since she was a schoolgirl.

She recalls being presented with an Inspire, Aspire award at the university for a history project she made aged only nine – and she knew even then that she would study there one day.

Shantelle’s choice to study neuroscience is inspired by her gran’s health journey – and she hopes to help find a cure for dementia.

“I have researched the condition since I was young and studied it as part of my Higher – and I felt like I could properly understand what is going on,” she said.

Katie, Shantelle, Ethan and Natasha

“It’s amazing that I get to go back to the university. I realised even then I was going there no matter what.

“I was always a high achiever and really ambitious.”

Shantelle hopes her own story can inspire people from all walks of life to work hard and chase their dreams.

“I don’t want to sound cliché, but you can be whoever you want to be and you don’t have to let any labels define you,” she said.

“I wasn’t the only care-experienced person at school but it felt like it. It felt like that was all they thought.

“I don’t think you ever fully get rid of that feeling of everything being impermanent. You’re always prepared to grab and go. It was difficult at times.

“But I’m happy to advocate for people like me, who have had different experiences in life. If you can get through what you’ve gone through, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”

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