Charles Leask Middle School eighth-grader Kaycie Nelson with her certificate from the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. (Photo courtesy of the Annette Island School District).

A Metlakatla middle-schooler recently learned she was accepted into a prestigious program meant to prepare her for the Ivy League. Staff at the Annette Island School District say Kaycie Nelson is the only student they can remember being accepted into the program.

Thirteen-year-old Kaycie Nelson is in eighth grade at Charles Leask Middle School. Someday, she hopes to go to Harvard. 

Being accepted into the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth could help.

The program is for students who excel in school and score highly on a screening test. Kaycie said she had fun with that part of the process. 

“I thought the test was cool,” she said. “I’ve never really done anything (like that).”

Kaycie’s mother, Cecelia Brendible, said her daughter took the School and College Ability Test as part of her application. It’s a multiple-choice test full of above-grade level questions on topics like math and logic. It’s specifically administered to students labeled as “gifted” by programs like the one at Johns Hopkins.

Brendible said Kaycie received her official certificate in the mail in early December.

“And it took like 10 days, and they replied back and offered her classes, and we get to pick,” Brendible explained.

Students who are accepted have access to a slew of classes that not only give them high school credits, but are meant to prepare them for a journey to Ivy League schools. 

“She is interested in, like, a foreign language (class) because a lot of the Ivy League schools want four years of foreign language and usually high schools in, like, smaller towns only provide two years,” she said. “So I think she was gonna go for that or a science class.”

A Charles Leask Middle School counselor, Chelsea Martinez, says she learned about the Johns Hopkins program from retired Ketchikan High School counselor Robert McClory while visiting Ketchikan for the recent college and career fair. She took the idea back to Metlakatla and let students and families know about the option. She said she pushed Nelson’s family to look into the program.

Brendible recalled her daughter’s reaction to the news that she’d been accepted.  

“She was pretty excited. … They sent us an email a couple of weeks ago,” she said.

She’s not quite sure whether her daughter will take advantage of the program online or in-person. The family will work with Kaycie’s school to learn more.

At Charles Leask Middle School, Kaycie is taking a math class meant for high-schoolers. Brendible said her daughter tested with top marks recently. Brendible says Kaycie hopes to become a dual-credit student at some point, so she can start taking college-level courses.

She might have eyes on Harvard, but for now, Kaycie said she’s enjoying school in Metlakatla. 

“I like Native art — (it’s) really fun,” Kaycie said. “And I also like band.”

She hasn’t completely made up her mind on what she’d like to study in college yet.

“I have a lot of ideas, but I probably want to study literature,” she said.

She’ll have plenty of time to think it over — she’s on track to graduate high school in 2027. 

Raegan Miller is a Report for America corps member for KRBD. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution at