Every summer, the Grant Magazine staff holds a journalism camp for rising seventh through ninth graders. Their stories are posted here, on the Grant Magazine website.
It’s 2 a.m. in late February of Cade May’s senior year at Grant High School.
After a long night of finishing homework, he’s dead tired. May logs into his email before bed, his vision blurry after reading line after line of words. It’s been a few days since he last checked, so it takes a few minutes to reach the oldest emails in his inbox.
May’s eyes scan the next email. A message from Columbia University had been sitting in his inbox. With trembling fingers, May opened the email. It’s a likely letter, stating May is likely to be admitted to Columbia.
May is suddenly wide awake. After waking his mother and celebrating, it turned out to be a wonderful night, but it would become much more complicated in the next few months.
Growing up with a single mother, May was inspired by her constant drive and determination.
“A long time ago, I said, ‘If you don’’t like what we have here, there’s nobody dying that’s going to leave us lots of money,” his mother, Caryn May, says. “If you want more than what you see here, you’re going to have to get it on your own.’”
May worked hard all through school, finding a way to juggle many different activities at once, while still getting good grades.
May has lived in Portland all his life, from the day he was born on April 4, 1997. He was raised by his mother with no siblings, although he has a dog named Napoleon. At age 5, May began playing soccer, which he would continue with all the way through his junior year of high school.
During elementary and middle school, he played the violin, piano and guitar, although he plays the guitar almost exclusively these days. By fifth grade, May already knew he was interested in the medical field.
In sixth grade, he set his goal of becoming an ophthalmologist when he was able to study at OHSU and dissect an eye. “That was a day that just really stood out for me,” says May. “I wanted to know what eye doctors did and what eye surgeons did.”
In his sophomore year of high school, May took on a new challenge: Grant Magazine, Grant High School’s nationally recognized student publication.
“I originally went in because that’s what I wanted to do,” he remembers. “I liked writing a lot. So that’s a pretty good reason to go, but once you get in there you realize it’s a lot more than just writing.
“You get a full skill set of really important things and I was glad to work on those skills and become a more well rounded person because of it.”
Through Grant Magazine, May got to know many older students and became acquaintances with even more. May continued to play soccer up until his senior year, where he did track instead. He played guitar almost daily, and participated in plenty of clubs as well. On top of everything else, May was enrolled in college classes.
“It’s definitely hard, but it’s not so much as hard as if you’re going to do it at the end of the day,” May explains. “So I just made the decision that I wanted to divide my time between all those things. It’s hard work, and it’s a lot of work, but it’s just what I wanted to do.”
Before winter break of his senior year, May applied to more than a dozen different universities, many of them Ivy Leagues. “I just kept adding them on, like what if I didn’t get into enough?” May clarifies. “I knew at the time that that was a bit insane, and my friends told me that was a bit insane. But one of my closest friends told me that while it was insane, he knew I would get into at least one and he wasn’t worried.”
A few nerve-wracking months later, May received his likely letter from Columbia University. He was shocked, but his mother was not surprised. “I always had faith, I had no doubt in his abilities,” says Caryn May. “He didn’t believe in himself as much as I did.”
The next month, the other universities he had applied to sent their letters one after the other. By the end, May had gotten into 11 universities and waitlisted at Harvard and Yale. “It’s just amazing that everything fell into place,” May says.
After another long month of decision-making, May finally chose Stanford over Columbia. “Having to choose between the two was extremely hard, not out of disrespect for either school but because I wanted to be at both of them so badly,” May explains. “In the end, I had always been leaning toward Stanford.”
May is currently working as an intern for Multnomah County’s District 2 Commissioner, Loretta Smith.
He does a variety of things at his job, mostly working on speeches and editing them for Commissioner Smith. “I really appreciate it because there’s so many established members of the community there I get to work with,” May says. “It’s just a really nice environment there overall.”
May begins his college adventure with orientation the week of September 15.
“It hasn’t even struck me how amazing it is, I just know I’m very very lucky,” May says. “I just can’t really put it into words how appreciative I am that it worked out.”
His first year in college, he plans to devote to pursuing pre-med requirements like biology and chemistry. May’s second year will most likely have more variety, such as economics or anthropology. His final goal is to become an ophthalmologist, a goal he set many years ago but still has kept fresh in his mind.
“Nothing stops him. He is relentless. He will do whatever it takes to get the job done,” Caryn May says. “I think that drive comes from wanting things he knows won’t magically come to him.”
After many years of working as hard as possible with a drive and determination near impossible to match, Cade May is a success story.
“He will thrive at Stanford,” his mom says. “He will love being around people that have that determination and that drive that he has.”
“My feeling was that, I have to be in high school anyway, so why not give it my everything? It’s just a requirement, why would I not want to end up in a good place afterward?” Cade May explains. “That good place for me was Stanford.”