LAFAYETTE, La. – Most parents and guidance counselors advise high school seniors to apply to more than one college — to have at least one “backup school.”
Well, Normandie Cormier of Lafayette had more than 100 backups.
She applied to schools through the Common App and the Common Black College App, which allows students to apply one time and have their information sent to hundreds of schools rather than apply 100 times.
Cormier, 18, was accepted into 139 colleges across the country. She has two big binders filled with her acceptance letters in page protectors.
The books sit among letters from the White House, schools and organizations like Burger King, GE and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation about awards and scholarships — $8.7 million in all.
Her family’s kitchen table is covered, as are her two graduation caps.
The binders were her mom’s idea, even before she got one letter. Single mother Chantelle Gary has been intent on inspiring her children to dream big, work hard and believe. She wore a T-shirt Friday that summed it up — “God. Goals. Grind.”
“Sometimes you have to speak it into existence,” Gary said. “Be careful what you ask for.”
Gary home-schooled her daughter for several years. Then the teen decided she wanted to try Early College Academy for high school.
The school, on the campus of South Louisiana Community College, offers an accelerated program in which students take two years of high school and two years of college courses. So on May 9, Cormier graduated twice, first in her burgundy cap and gown to receive her diploma from the academy and then in navy blue to receive an associate degree in general studies from SLCC.
If that wasn’t enough, she’s an entrepreneur, tutoring kids and adults in her home and online, visiting a local nursing home, shadowing doctors as a hospital intern during the summer and mentoring girls about STEM education.
Entrepreneurship and hard work are her family’s traits. They set goals and write them on white boards they keep around the house.
“Then we help each other to accomplish them,” Gary said.
Her mom home-schools about 12 kids in addition to her son, Payton. They’re always working, learning and volunteering, putting their business profits back into the community, Gary said.
And the family balances the workload of school and home businesses with a chronic illness. Since she was a little girl, Cormier’s immune system has not been able to fight sickness, which has resulted in asthma and chronic skin issues.
She has been hospitalized many times, at least twice this year, her mom said, and spent much of Friday having blood work done to check her white blood cells. But she’ll smile, as she describes it, true to her mission of inspiring others.
“Since I was a child, I was always in and out of the hospital,” Cormier said. “When I was young, it affected my self-esteem. But now I can use it to inspire others.”
She had many options for this fall, but Cormier had to choose one. She landed on Xavier University of Louisiana, a private historically black university in New Orleans that offered her a full ride — as did 16 other schools.
“It was an easy decision,” Cormier said, but not because of the money. Xavier is well-known for its “pipeline” of African-American graduates to medical school and those students’ success rates.
Because she wants to be a doctor, it made perfect sense.
“Xavier’s goals align with mine,” she added.
Her time in the hospital, both as a patient and a volunteer, led her to choose that path. She has been mentored by medical and other STEM professionals.
“She wants to continue to inspire children,” Gary said.
“To want more for themselves and for their education,” Cormier said to finish her mom’s sentence.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Louisiana teen accepted into 139 colleges, awarded $8.7 million in scholarships