Colleges & Universities

California student was accepted to 122 colleges and received $5.3 million in scholarships

Head-Royce School student Helms Ategeka plans to attend UC Berkeley

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One Oakland high schooler is raking in the college acceptance letters and scholarships.

Helms Ategeka, a top Head-Royce School student, was accepted to 122 colleges and received $5.3 million in collective scholarships.

"I feel really lucky that there are people out there, that there are institutions out there that see the value that I have to give," Helms said.

Helms believes it was his nearly 10 extracurriculars, spanning from choir to theater to starting his own club, along with his 3.9 GPA that set him apart on paper.

For him, his dedication to school is born out of passion for his family and lessons from his upbringing in Uganda. The college-bound singer just moved to the United States five years ago.

"I just really had to remind myself that this is an opportunity, especially where I'm from that a lot of people don’t have," he said. "I wanted to be grateful for that and honor my parents."

Helms, an aspiring pop and R&B recording artist, applied to nearly 160 schools in total to find the best program possible, but he never picked a top choice out of fear of disappointment.

Adding the pros, subtracting the cons and factoring in financial aid, the equation led him to select UC Berkeley because of its music school and diversity in courses.

"That’s how I ultimately decided on Cal, because I was like music, fantastic! Location, fantastic! Now let's look at everything else," he said.

Cal is also the alma mater of his father, Chris Ategeka, who spent years working with immigration trying to get Helms into the U.S.

"All the things that I and my family had to go through to be here, sometimes there's moments where you have to pinch yourself," Chris said. "Is this happening or is this a dream?"

Chris said it's his son’s undeniable passion for music, hard work mixed in with some luck and a higher power that makes him shine.

"He has found a thing and that thing is music," Chris said. "That brings out so much joy that it is infectious. It is really hard to ignore."

Helms is excited to carve out his own legacy one note at a time.

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