It was the best early Christmas gift Michel Sidemion could have asked for -- an offer of admissions from his dream school: Tufts University.
A video capturing his moment of joy went viral over the weekend, shared around the world. It shows him nervously checking his admissions status online, surrounded by classmates. When he learns of his acceptance, Michel and his friends jump and cheer. When Michel takes off his shirt, revealing a Tufts t-shirt, there is even more joy.
"I was like, 'Oh my God!'" Michel tells NY1. "I didn't even read the rest of the letter after that; I just knew I got in."
The Bronx teenager is a senior and a member of the first graduating class at Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts in Manhattan, a charter school.
The aspiring software engineer says Tufts was his first choice because of its engineering program, a welcoming feeling on campus, and Tuft's taekwondo club.
But he knew how difficult it is to get into the suburban boston school, and was not positive he'd land a spot.
"It was like a 60 percent, you know, feeling in me like, 'I'm gonna get in,'" Sidemion said. "Then there's the rest that's like, 'I don't know what to feel.'"
Sidemion's parents say they're thrilled to see their son's hard work pay off. They say he spent a lot of time on his college applications, and puts just as much effort into his studies.
"Sometimes, I have to knock on the door in the middle the night and tell him, 'Michel, get to bed,'" said Edem Sidemion, Michel's father. "He'd say, 'No, I didn't finish my homework.'"
Sidemion says he's especially proud of his accomplishment as an immigrant; he and his family moved to the U.S. from Togo in West Africa in 2003. He says his story proves that, with commitment, anything is possible.
"Don't let any stereotypes or barriers bring you down," Sidemion said. "Just prove the world wrong and just be yourself."
As for the video, Sidemion says he's stunned it has gone viral, but he is happy so many others are sharing his joy with him.
In a statement, Success Academy says, "Michel and the rest of this first graduating class have worked hard and are very deserving of the offers they've received from Tufts, MIT, Barnard, and elsewhere. We couldn't be prouder."