Springfield (February 17, 2016) – Brian Schuster, a 4.0 honors student with near perfect SAT scores and captain of three varsity sports teams at Springfield Heights High School, was rejected by seven Ivy League schools and wait-listed at another for taking a family vacation in 4th grade while school was still in session. Seemingly a lock to have his pick of schools to attend, the square-jawed Special Olympics volunteer apparently had his fate sealed eight years ago when he did not show up for five full days of school.
After turning down scholarship offers to play basketball at the University of Kansas and UCLA, Schuster’s focus was squarely on attending a prestigious east coast school that could provide the foundation to help him achieve his dream of providing low-cost, state-of-the-art medical care to developing countries around the world. Despite winning the Intel Science Talent Search with his revolutionary theory on Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer, his top choice schools simply could not overlook his unexcused absence almost a decade ago.
Schuster was away with the New York Philharmonic where he plays second chair cello when he found out he was rejected by two of the schools and was rescuing a family of five from their burning home when his mother texted him with three more “no” responses. The final rejections were received the same day he and Johnny, his “Little Brother” as part of the Big Brothers, Little Brothers program, were volunteering at the homeless shelter.
Schuster does not blame his parents for pulling him out of school because at the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. “It was my Grandparents’ 50th Anniversary but instead of having a big party, my grandfather, Gabe, a World War II veteran who helped liberate Paris as part of the 4th Infantry Division under General Dwight Eisenhower, took our entire family, about thirty of us from all over the country, to a small village in Ecuador, home of the Huaorani tribe. They welcomed us to their land and provided food and shelter for the week while we created a complex irrigation system that provided a simple solution to combat prolonged droughts,” Schuster recalled, as a tear ran down his left cheek. “Although it was only a few days, I cherish the stories my Grandpa shared with us about his time in the service. And, I not only formed life long bonds with my own family, but unbreakable bonds with the Huaorani people, as well. It was an experience that has helped shaped me as a human being.”
It was the last time Schuster would see his grandparents as, only weeks later, they both passed away within hours of one another due to previously undisclosed illnesses.
When asked why a student like Schuster, still undecided about his future but now leaning toward working retail at Abercrombie, did not gain acceptance, a spokesperson for one of the schools who asked to remain anonymous commented, “Learning is done in a classroom setting. His peers were working hard on dioramas and math facts. Those absences are part of his permanent record and there’s really nothing he could do to overcome that. We can’t overlook that. That record is permanent!”