Sexton's journey is just beginning

Travis M. Smith -- @travis5mith tsmith@theglenrosereporter.com
Trey Sexton is pictured outside of Harvard's gates during his campus visit. He will be calling the acreage inside "home" for the next four years.

John Adams is one of this country’s Founding Fathers, oft-credited with convincing the Continental Congress to adopt and sign the Declaration of Independence, served as the second President of the United States of America, and father of John Quincy Adams – the country’s sixth President.

Natalie Portman has been a Hollywood mainstay for 15 years after her original appearance in the Star Wars prequels. She holds a dual citizenship in Israel and the U.S., and even won an Academy Award in 2011 for her leading role in Black Swan.

Mark Zuckerberg became one of the youngest billionaires in the world after he developed a newfangled social media platform that the kids these days refer to as Facebook – which reported surpassing the one billion-user plateau in 2012.

So what do Adams, Portman, Zuckerberg, along with Matt Damon, Bill Gates, Bill O’Reilly, Mitt Romney, Tommy Lee Jones, and George W. Bush all have in common – besides being on Business Insider’s list of the top-30 most famous students at a certain Ivy League university? At one point in time, they all attended the same Ivy League university Trey Sexton departed for on Tuesday – Harvard.

Well, to be fair, he has not officially begun classes yet, as those do not start until Sept. 9. Instead, Sexton departed Glen Rose for a six-day backpacking trip across Maine with his Harvard class of 2019 peers.

“That's kind of our orientation, and we should get to know some kids really well, so that will be cool,” Sexton said. “Then we'll come back for a week and have a more standard orientation. There'll be events going on, and movies, and things like that where we'll go and meet people.

“The following week, we'll get to shop around the classes, where you get to sit in and check out if it's really something you'd be interested in. They really make sure that you're going to enjoy what you're doing.”

Attending a university consistently ranked in the top-3 in the U.S. by nearly every media outlet with a keyboard and Internet access, has not always been a goal of Sexton’s, and he will be the first to admit to that. However, it was the only Ivy League school he applied for, and the only other school he applied to not located in downtown Austin.

”I really did not consider applying until the latter part of my junior year of high school, but it wasn’t like I have wanted to go since sixth grade,” Sexton said. “It was just something that when I got to the point of applying for colleges, that if I wasn’t going to go to the University of Texas, then it had to be the best school in the world. So that’s what I went for, and, it worked.

“No one really applies thinking they're going to get in, which is kind of cool. You imagine all these people that are just insanely intelligent, but when you go there you realize a lot of kids are humble and very well deserving. When you talk to a kid you would never know some of the accomplishments that some of the other students have done.

“It's crazy because it's not just these academic kids, it's kids from all over. Kids that are obviously celebrity's children and brothers and sisters of celebrities and big name families, but you also have people that are really accomplished in athletics or that even aren't so accomplished in academics. I think that what they're looking for is not necessarily someone who's a genius, they're looking for people that are going to succeed.”

“The big question when you meet someone is, 'why did you get in?'”

Harvard’s website lists several questions in four categories that the admissions evaluators ask themselves as they dissect the 30,000-plus applications submitted each year. Under the “interest and activities” category is where Sexton undoubtedly separated himself from the 37,307 applicants, and into the group of 2,081 admitted students, as reported on the university’s website.

“What have you learned from your interests? What have you done with your interests? How have you achieved results? With What success or failure? What have you learned as a result?”

“In terms of extracurricular, athletic, community, or family commitments, have you taken full advantage of opportunities?”

“What is the quality of your activities? Do you appear to have a genuine commitment or leadership role?”

Trey Sexton can answer all of these questions confidently and proudly, and has two letters of recognition from United States Presidents, who also happen to both be former Harvard students, to back his play.

President George W. Bush was the first to pen a letter to Sexton, and told the then seventh grader that he “loves to see youth interested in politics,” and encouraged Trey to “continue with that endeavor.”

The second letter from the desk of the Oval Office, recognized Sexton for his commitment to community service after he incorporated his first non-profit – a garden that serves as a food bank and is now being taken over by the junior high. Torrie Taylor, who went to school in Glen Rose and is now a lawyer in Fort Worth, helped him through the legalities of the process and guided him through making a lease for the food bank.

”The junior high kids are going to be running it, which is cool and it will be a learning experience for them as well,” Sexton said. “We went through all of the legal work with that and incorporated it. I also got my friends to volunteer, and while it’s not a huge garden, it took us quite a bit of work, but the Expo helped us out some.

“It has really been the whole community’s effort to get it done. I think it helped significantly with my admission, not too many kids can say that at 17 years old they incorporated their first nonprofit.”

The final question under the above category is answered by Sexton’s time as the drum major of the Tiger Pride band in high school. Taking on a leadership role was not to boost his resume, or to guarantee his acceptance into a four-year university, because to Trey, the band – and music – is much bigger than a bullet point on an application.

“Band was an amazing experience, and I think that helped out a lot,” Sexton said. “I also think music is a big sign of intelligence. It takes a lot to be involved in an organization like that, and to lead in an organization like that. […] Even if you are not a leader in the band, the music is quite hard to accomplish and it just says something about someone who is dedicated to memorizing something like that, to go out of their way to learn, and appreciate the arts. I think that was a big piece in my application.”

Sexton will have to learn to deal with the treacherous Boston winters as he marches to and from buildings as old or older than America itself, some which even “housed George Washington’s troops.” There will undoubtedly be an expedited learning curve as he makes the transition from a small Texas community of just over 2,000 to a close-knit, walled-in learning community of the same number. Glen Rose may forever be home, but Harvard is the next chapter.