She's witty, kind and curious and said "No thanks" to the Ivy League in favor of Texas. Just one of many students we're proud to have in the class of 2015.
By Danielle Wells
Photo by Michael Stravato
OPEN magazine, Fall 2011
Like many typical American teenagers, Armiya Humphrey takes full advantage of her unlimited text message plan and enjoys hanging out with friends and watching TV. But she’s also a young woman of more unexpected talents. Like solving a 4x4 Rubik’s cube in less than five minutes. Or picking locks just for fun.
She even picks apart TV plots. One of Humphrey’s favorite shows, “White Collar,” features a criminal-turned-FBI consultant who dazzles viewers with the secrets of his former trade. Each Wednesday, the native of League City, Texas, convenes with fellow members of the “Dishonor Society” to decipher tricks from that week’s episode. Hence her knack for picking locks, a trick that came in handy once when a substitute teacher in her calculus class needed to get a worksheet out of a locked drawer
Humphrey’s other notable skill? Being a seriously successful student. As in, perfect scores on the math and critical reading sections of the SAT.
The same curiosity that makes her a self-proclaimed Rubik’s cube fanatic and hobbyist lock-picker helps her devour academics, approaching each new problem as a puzzle to be solved.
Watch Armiya solve a Rubik's cube in 31 seconds:
But despite her intellect, Humphrey doesn’t seek the limelight and isn’t the first to raise her hand in class. She exudes a quiet confidence that reflects her position as double bassist in her high school chamber orchestra. “We’re not the main part of the orchestra,” says Humphrey. “But without us, they can’t function, they can’t keep the beat.”
That unassuming, personable nature can fool people into overlooking her hard work.
“Ask anybody who doesn’t know me too well, they say I’m a laid-back character who magically gets good grades,” says Humphrey. When word got out that she’d been accepted at Harvard, the news spread through her high school like wild fire. “People were coming up to me and saying, ‘How did you get into Harvard?’”
Ask Humphrey what she’s reading, and you won’t be so surprised that Harvard, UT and 11 other schools wanted her to join their freshman classes. She recently finished Gary Shteyngart’s unorthodox satirical novel, “Super Sad True Love Story,” and eagerly discusses its similarity to the “utopia/dystopia kind of thing” in “A Brave New World” and “1984.”
“[Books] will always have some new term, new idea, new nugget that makes me want to learn more,” says Humphrey. “If books were food, I would be as big as a house,” she wrote in her application essay for UT’s Forty Acres Scholars program, which gave her a full ride to come to the university.
The AIM Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship was a big factor in Humphrey’s decision to attend UT instead of Harvard, along with her positive experiences visiting campus and the strength of McCombs’ undergraduate business major.
The prestigious merit scholarship covers full tuition, books, living expenses and summer programs, such as study abroad, internships and service learning projects. Humphrey is one of 10 freshmen in the inaugural class of Forty Acres Scholars, selected from a pool of nearly 800 applicants across the university. (McCombs students earned five of the 10 Forty Acres scholarships)
The generous scholarship is a fitting reward for someone like Humphrey, for whom giving back is a way of life. She grew up volunteering with Jack and Jill of America, Inc., a service organization she joined with her mother at age 6. Humphrey went on to become teen president of the Clear Lake/Bay Area Chapter.
Following the destruction of Hurricane Ike in 2008, Humphrey and other volunteers helped restore a youth center in Galveston, scrubbing the facilities from floor to ceiling and painting a new mural. “After we finished, I wasn’t so sure that it had helped,” recounts Humphrey, acknowledging that it seemed like such a small effort in the face of all that had happened to the community. “But the director came down and — just to see his face and how excited he was—we had made a difference.”
It’s just one of many volunteer projects that decorate Humphrey’s résumé. She also was a reading buddy at her local library, co-founded a Spanish tutoring program for intermediate school students and renovated a park for senior citizens.
But speak with Humphrey, and you’ll quickly learn that these projects aren’t about padding her résumé. To Humphrey, her dedication to service is unremarkable. It’s simply what you do.
“The community was integral in creating me,” says Humphrey. “You have to give back in order to let others have a chance, too.”