Takyia Cole, the 18-year-old senior who attends Noble Academy on the Near North Side, was recently accepted into Stanford University with a full scholarship.

I recently spoke with Cole, who grew up in Austin but now lives in North Lawndale, about how it feels to know she’s off to an elite school unburdened by the worry of college debt. She also talked about some of her passions and plans.

On her academic bona fides

I have a 4.7 GPA. I take honors and AP courses, so my GPA is weighted. I’ve been in track and field all four years and I’ve also done mentoring services and various volunteer programs. I founded a couple of my own clubs that mentored freshmen at school. I also did a documentary in neighborhood that I think really stood out to [the acceptance committee].

On why she chose Stanford

I wanted to go to a college that will challenge me, but not intimidate me. While researching on Stanford, the school felt comfortable to me. I also connected with their mission statement.

On other schools she applied to

I also applied to Spelman College in Atlanta and Howard University in Washington, D.C. I applied to all of the Ivy Leagues and to Northwestern. Stanford gave me early acceptance, so I’m still waiting to hear back from those other colleges. I was, however, accepted into Spelman [the news was a pleasant surprise for Cole’s mother, who was listening nearby].

On her plans after college

I chose to major in political science, because I’m interested in where I grew up. When I was younger, I would always wonder why everyone in my neighborhood is the same color as me. Political science gives you the ability to think about things like that with facts and data.

After getting my bachelor’s, I want to go to law school, because I feel that a lot of society is changed through the law and legal systems.

On advice to other budding scholars on the West Side

Define what you’re passionate about, because before I realized my passion for political science, I wasn’t even sure I would go to college and now I’m going to one of the best colleges in the world. Once you find your passion, you can go a long way.

On the ‘dark side’ of the West Side

When I was growing up, I always saw the positive side of my community. You know, having people who support and understand you. I went to schools that are majority white, so it was nice being in a neighborhood where a lot of people are like you, but when I looked at a lot of the history of my neighborhood … it’s more dark, because I understand why I everybody living here is the same color.