CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Aaron Shirley, the recently-graduated Oscar Smith High School track star, has always had help staying in his lane.
"Positive reinforcement - when I look back on my life, I was always affirmed," Shirley told News 3.
A standout in the 300 meter hurdles, Shirley leaves Smith a regional champion, state champion, national champion and Junior Olympic champion. But while he's made a habit of leaving competitors behind, it's what's ahead of him that's truly impressive.
Shirley is bound for Harvard University where he will continue his academic and athletic career on a full scholarship.
"I was raised in a single-parent home," Shirley explained. "We needed to find a way to go to college, because we were expected to go to college. I used to play the violin for years. Maybe I could get a violin scholarship - or an athletic scholarship?"
A first-generation college student, Shirley did not need to pull any strings to get into Harvard. He graduated fifth in his class with a 4.98 GPA. At Oscar Smith, he also served as senior class president and founded the school's civil rights club in addition to being a member of the Science National Honor Society. After Harvard, he plans to attend medical school and study to become an Anatomical Pathologist.
"Harvard is going to open so many doors, but I don’t even know what those doors are going to be," Shirley admitted. "I don't even know what the next step is. Where am I going to be? Am I going to meet the professor who is going to take me under his wing? Am I going to get that internship at MassGen (Massachusetts General Hospital)? Those possibilities are extremely exciting. I pray about it all the time, that God keep me on the right path."
Aaron may not know exactly where Harvard will take him, but one thing is for sure - he will be on the fast track to get there.