AN IVY League mentality is in Jay Simms’ DNA. At home, college football helmets lined up on a table and hanging on the walls testify to his dad’s love of the game. He impressed upon his son that the helmets of Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown represented the best of the best in academics.
Simms received “the best of the best” as a challenge and set his sights on admission to an Ivy League school in early middle school.
“I am so competitively driven; I can thank my mom for that. From that day forward, I believed if they’re the best, then I am the best, and I’m going to be there,” Simms said.
His maternal grandmother’s support paved that path leading to the Ivy League. The dynamic mother/daughter duo taught Simms there is no shame in failure, never criticizing or berating him when things turned out differently than he expected.
He said, “They always made sure that I took the learning experience out of it. But they also always let me know that failure wasn’t the end of the road and that you could pave a new road out of it. They really helped shape my mindset into ‘I can do whatever I put my mind to’ through their positivity and overarching support.”
The Lincoln County High School graduate received acceptance letters from Yale, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania.
“When it came down to it, Yale’s considered one of the big three — Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. The name is recognized globally, and I just couldn’t turn down a full, free-ride offer from Yale. I don’t think anybody could have done that,” said Simms.
Simms and his family moved from Central Alabama to Lincoln County when he was in middle school. He discovered that the tight-knit community around his new home differed from his early life, where he felt no one cared about his neighbor.
Simms said, “Here, everyone I’ve seen, especially the people who are actively doing things, care. That’s not common outside of Lincoln County.”
As soon as the pandemic allowed, Simms began to give back to the community through work with the Fayetteville-Lincoln County Animal Shelter and other area nonprofits.
“I started coordinating events and fundraisers [for the shelter], and that’s where I began my community involvement,” he said. “Then it extended with me actively taking a role in Lift LC at the high school. When I went back to school my junior year, I took on the role as the community lead, where I coordinated outreach to the feeder schools and nonprofits in the community to spread mental health awareness beyond the walls of the high school.”
Simms’ involvement in lifting up his community will transition naturally to Yale. He’ll get an early start by moving to campus before the fall semester and is excited to begin the new chapter of his life and plans to major in neuroscience.
“After committing and learning more about them, I know that it’s the exact place that I need to be because they’re so community-based,” said Simms. “I think everybody has their niche that gets into an Ivy. You don’t get into an Ivy by doing 10,000 things. You have your one thing, and you’re really good at it. My one thing has been community throughout the past four years, and Yale is such a community that I think I will fit right in.” GN