East Ham sixth form sees four teenagers secure scholarships to top US universities

Lennox Keeble, Umar Azad, Xuan Nguyen and Catherine Lowe have all been awarded scholarships to top U

Lennox Keeble, Umar Azad, Xuan Nguyen and Catherine Lowe have all been awarded scholarships to top US universities. Picture: Joe Newman - Credit: Joe Newman

Four pupils at an East Ham sixth form have been awarded a total of £1 million in scholarships from top American universities.

Lennox Keeble, Catherine Lowe, Xuan Nguyen and Umar Azad are set to swap Newham Collegiate Sixth Form (NCS) for the Ivy League colleges this autumn on fully-funded scholarships worth around £250,000 each over a four year period.

The sixth form runs a US university preparation programme which includes a paid tour of the Ivy League universities, mentoring advice and guidance for those looking to study overseas.

The group were supported to study for the SATs - aptitude tests required by the American educational system - at the same time as preparing for their A-level exams before they were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Xuan, from Beckton, has accepted an unconditional offer from Harvard after being rejected by Cambridge to study natural sciences.

The 18-year-old, who has represented Great Britain in volleyball, is set to major in civil engineering after scoring 790 out of 800 on one of his SAT maths tests.

He said: “The level of support we got at NCS is unparalleled and it is why all four of us are going to the top US universities, no questions. Yes, we probably would have done well anywhere, but not this well.

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“My dream is to be part of a team that tackles global environmental issues. I am hoping being at Harvard will help me achieve that.”

He will be joined at Harvard by 18-year-old Umar, who will major in chemistry.

Umar, who lives in Stepney Green with his mum and two siblings, said: “When I found out I had been accepted it was a real surreal moment. My mum had just come back from Bangladesh so she was self-isolating with her mother.

“It was just me and my sister in the house. I called her in and told her and we both just hugged. I called my mum straight away. She was incredibly proud.”

Lennox, who received offers to study at MIT and Princeton before opting for the latter, said: “Einstein taught in room 302 Frist Campus Center at Princeton, that’s what inspired me to want to study there when I had the opportunity to visit.

“I want to experience all of what a US university has to offer.

“The trip to America with the NCS gave me the chance to make an informed decision. Princeton feels right for me.”

The aspiring physicist, who is the youngest of five siblings, added: “The streets of Dagenham and the hallowed halls of Princeton are very different places but I do not see it as a big deal. I will adjust, make friends. I am looking forward to it massively.”

Catherine also hopes to study physics after receiving an unconditional offer to study at MIT.

The 18-year-old from Stepney Green said: “My dad left school at 17 even though he was very bright so I guess I am helping to fulfil his potential as well as my own. He is very proud of me as you can imagine.

“I think the moment I started to believe this could happen was when we got the chance to travel to these universities. It seems like a dream but when you are there it gives you the belief you can make it.”

The group were praised by NCS headteacher Mouhssin Ismail who said: “To have students from some of the most disadvantaged boroughs in London win full scholarships to Harvard, Princeton and MIT is testament to the hard work of the students and their teachers. To know their lives will be enriched and changed forever is a great feeling.

“NCS was set up to push the boundaries of what is possible and we tell our students every day that they can study at the most prestigious universities, lead the most high-profile organisations and join the highest ranks of politics.

“They are beginning to believe, because they are seeing it is possible and with time this will become the norm.”