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photo of Maria de Leon | High Jump Chicago

“High Jump was a foundation for everything I’ve accomplished now and everything I will accomplish in the future. I wouldn’t have taken opportunities or risks if it wasn’t for the program.”


Cohort 22

Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center

Harvard University

At six years old, Maria immigrated to the United States from the Philippines with her mother and two siblings. Together they lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Albany Park with 10 other family members. Maria’s mother worked multiple jobs just to provide for her family.

After being placed into the gifted program at her neighborhood school, she and her mother found out about High Jump and decided to apply. High Jump gave Maria the confidence she needed to try new things, a mentality that she carried with her into high school where she joined student council and the math team and pioneered the school’s poetry magazine as the managing editor. Maria’s ambitions didn’t stop there. When it came to applying to college, High Jump taught her to not be afraid of the price tag, and she knew that she could reach her potential. With that leap of faith, Maria applied to some of the top schools in the country, eventually choosing to attend Harvard University as a pre-med student. Her dream is to go to medical school and pursue a career in oncology.