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Young woman born in jail set to go to Harvard this fall

Aurora Sky Castner

Academy for Science & Health, Conroe ISD | Facebook

Anna Gębalska-Berekets - published on 08/22/23

Aurora Sky Castner participated in a mentorship program that helped her set and achieve high goals. She graduated from high school summa cum laude.

Aurora Sky Castner, 18, lives in Conroe near Houston, Texas. She recently graduated from high school third in her class and has been accepted by Harvard. Sky didn’t have an easy start, though. She was born in the Galveston County Jail, where her mother was serving time. Her father, who has bipolar disorder, took her from behind bars and raised her alone.

In her free time, Sky loved to read books. Her teachers noticed her passion and decided that Castner would benefit from the local CISD Project Mentor program. The project pairs students with mentors to “foster meaningful relationships that promote positive youth development so that students can successfully navigate school and life.” That’s how Mona Hamby came into Sky’s life.

Galveston County Justice Center, Galveston, Texas
Galveston County Justice Center, Galveston, Texas.

“I was given a paper about her. Her hero was Rosa Parks; her favorite food was tacos from Dairy Queen, and she loved to read. I thought this sounded like a bright little girl,” Hamby told local paper The Courier. “I still have that paper today,” Sky’s mentor adds.

Mona recalls when she met Castner. “She told me: ‘I’ve been to jail.’ I said: ‘No, that can’t be right.’ I knew that I can’t just go eat lunch with this kid once a week, she needed more,” explains Hamby. Mentoring has long proven to be an effective way to help children, and in Sky Castner’s case, her relationship with Mona Hamby turned out to be especially beneficial.

Female authority figure and inspiration

The woman became an integral part of her charge’s life, and contributed to her great success.

Indeed, Hamby didn’t limit her interaction to meeting for a weekly lunch. She talked to Castner about her plans for the future, and took the teenager shopping, to the hairdresser, and on walks. She also helped Sky select her first eyeglasses. 

“It was a very different environment than I grew up in and that’s not a bad thing,” Castner told the Houston Chronicle. “Everything that Mona taught me was very valuable in the same way that everything that I went through before Mona was very valuable,” she explains.

The Quad at Harvard University
The Quad at Harvard University

It was Hamby and her husband who took Sky Castner to visit Harvard — a visit that solidified the high schooler’s intention to study there. “I was born in prison” were the opening words of the admissions essay she sent to the Harvard committee, MSN reports.

Recently, the 18-year-old graduated from high school summa cum laude.  She also received a medal from The Academy for Health and Science Professions at Conroe High School, MSN reports.

Sky is a radiantly happy and joyful young girl who is making her dreams come true.

Scholarship and prestigious program at Harvard

Sky Castner, as an outstanding student, received a full scholarship to study at Harvard. She owes her success to hard work, consistency, and the support of her dad and her mentor.

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