VILLA PARK, Ill. — At Willowbrook High, it’s about that time when the school’s graduating class walks across that stage and moves on to greater strides in a new life.

Elmhurst University, Illinois State University, Furman University, Clark Atlanta University, and Albany State University are just some colleges to offer Amia Jackson admittance. So for this Willowbrook High senior, some decisions are to be made.

“We got our caps and gowns today, so to me, it was like an ah-ha moment that we were about to graduate in three weeks,” Jackson said.

Jackson has been admitted into 39 colleges, from public to private to state flagship schools to historically black colleges, with some close to home and others on the other side of the US.

All told, colleges have collectively offered the scholar $2 million in grants.

The soon-to-be graduate says she has always liked education since her first day of preschool.

“What attracts me to learning is that the more I learn, the more powerful I feel,” Jackson said. “It makes you unstoppable because knowledge is something no one can take away from you.”

Jackson adds that she has always appreciated people who are different than her.

“What I like most about high school is meeting new people,” she said. “I chose to come to Willowbrook because it is diverse. I got to meet new people part of different cultures and experiences, different traditions, and lots of my friends now are from different religions and different cultures. (It’s like) kind of seeing what it’s going to be like in the real world when I have to work with different people.”

During her time at Willowbrook, Jackson has been in plenty of clubs and organizations.

“Black Organization of Student Success, I’m the academic chair. I’m a part of Student Council, Varsity Club, National Honor Society,” she said. “During my senior year, I wanted to try something new, so I tried bowling, and I loved it.”

School principal Dan Krause says he took notice of her from the start.

“Her smile. The way she speaks to people and how she brings you into the conversation,” Krause said. “Academic success aside, acceptance to colleges, scholarship offers, Amia is an amazing person, and that is what I noticed from the beginning.”

Dad Randy Jackson and mom Denise Davis say they are bursting with pride.

“We try to teach her that the sky is the limit and she can go wherever she wants,” dad said.

“It’s absolutely surreal,” mom adds. “Always Instilling in her the importance of education. Trying to make sure she pushes toward whatever goal she has and absolutely just trying to strive for whatever it is she wants to do.”

So as Jackson continues to blossom, she, while young, is not naive. She says she knows the next phase of life and the impending hard work. It’s a message planted in her heart and soul by her parents for as long as Amia Jackson can remember.

“My mom taught me from a very early age that I am going to have to work twice as hard to get to where I want to be,” she said. “‘You’re strong, and you can handle it.’ I think it’s important, especially for women of color.”