"I was nervous to open it, but I wasn't really nervous to let her down because I knew she would be proud of me regardless," Skylar Hughes said

By Joelle Goldstein
January 05, 2021 06:23 PM
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A Georgia teen who has always wanted to attend Duke University watched her dreams become a reality — and did so at her mother's gravesite.

Skylar Hughes waited 16 hours to open her status update letter from Duke because she wanted to share the "beautiful moment" with her mom, who died unexpectedly in 2016, according to a GoFundMe page set up on her behalf.

When she finally received confirmation that she had been accepted to the prestigious university, Skylar couldn't help but break down in tears beside her father James in a video shared on YouTube.

"It was the best feeling in the world," Skylar, 17, told NBC affiliate WRAL after learning she was part of the approximately 7 percent of applicants who got into the school. "I was so proud of myself. All my hard work and sacrifices paid off, and it just made me really happy."

But now, Skylar is faced with another challenge as she attempts to raise enough money so she can actually attend her dream university.

Though the Grayson High School senior has received a financial aid package, it doesn't cover all of her costs, so a family member created a GoFundMe page to help her raise money as she continues to apply for scholarships.

"It’s my No. 1 school, so I’m just staying positive, and I’m going to hopefully get scholarships," she told WRAL of the fundraiser, which has raised over $30,000 of its $180,000 goal.

When Skylar was just 11 years old, her mom Rasheda Hughes suffered a brain aneurysm and fell into a coma, according to the local outlet. After a year of fighting for her life, Rasheda died.

"She was such a vibrant woman, and I get a lot of my qualities from her," Skylar told WRAL of Rasheda. "She's definitely my biggest inspiration."

In the years following her death, Skylar made it a priority to routinely visit her mom's grave, at least "once every week or once every two weeks."

"I bring lunch out there, and I just like, catch her up to my life because I know she would want to be involved," she explained to the outlet.

Her college process was no different. Earlier this year, Skylar applied early decision to Duke, but didn't get her hopes too high, as the school is incredibly competitive to get into.

"I was trying to be realistic with myself so I didn’t have too much of a heartbreak," she told WRAL, adding that her letter finally came in the mail on Dec. 18, but she waited until the following day to open it at her mom's gravesite with her father.

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"Before I opened it, me and my dad and my mom, we just all prayed," she recalled to the local outlet. "I felt like my nerves were heightened because I felt like she was nervous with me."

"I was nervous to open it, but I wasn’t really nervous to let her down because I knew she would be proud of me regardless," she added. "When I clicked the button and saw the blue streamers, I was like, 'Hold on, did I just get in?'"

While she was initially in disbelief, Skylar's father was filled with pride in the YouTube video as he hugged her and told her through his own tears, "I told you!"

With financial uncertainty now in front of her, Skylar — who hopes to study marine biology and hold a Black culture symposium at Duke — told WRAL she has applied to "probably 50 to 75 scholarships" and is hoping her impressive resume will set her apart from other candidates.

According to her GoFundMe, Skylar is an avid ballet dancer with the Northeast Atlanta Ballet Company, excels in her academics with a 4.1 GPA and 33 ACT score, and was nominated for the 2020-2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars award.

She is also heavily involved with local activism, dedicating over 200 hours to community service, participating in a mental health awareness campaign called DoSomething Club and the Black Lives Matter initiatives, and volunteers with the Marine Conservation Club.

As she continues to apply for scholarships, Skylar said she is thankful to have shared such a major milestone with her mom.

"It was a dream come true," she told the Gwinnett Daily Post. "I knew my mother wasn't going to see me in my wedding dress and she wasn't going to see me at homecoming or when I graduated eighth grade."

"She couldn’t come to my [ballet] performances or anything like that," adds Skylar. "It was really nice to be able to share a moment with her there."

Those interested in donating to Skylar's GoFundMe can so do here.