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Reporter follows boy from poverty to Ivy League

  • Boston Globe reporter Billy Baker followed up on story of two boys born to Vietnamese immigrants
  • One brother overcame cultural and family problems, poverty to gain acceptance to Yale
Reporter follows boy from poverty to Ivy League

Two years ago, the Boston Globe's Billy Baker profiled Johnny and George Huynh, two sons of Vietnamese immigrants who were making their way despite the hardships they had inherited. However, the story didn't end with Baker's byline. This week, the reporter revealed a triumphant coda to the pair's journey: Brought up in the midst of poverty, prejudice, and mental illness, one brother, Johnny, is now a sophomore in college, and the other, George, just received his acceptance letter to Yale. 

The accomplishment was of personal significance to Baker, who had been a mentor to the two brothers since he met them while writing a series of profiles on the No. 19 Bus, a bus line that Baker calls "a symbol of hope for Boston."

When Baker found out about George's acceptance to Yale Monday, his joy overflowed on Twitter, and he recounted their journey, tweet after tweet after tweet

Over the course of an hour on Monday night, Baker told his followers about his history with Johnny and George, about their father's suicide, their mother's mental illness, about their self-discipline and straight As and their dogged determination. While writing the story in 2011, Baker had followed the two boys for weeks, going to school with them and shedding light on the dark parts of their past. At the time, Johnny was a junior in high school and George was a sophomore. 

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"Watching these kids make good from almost nothing was the most special thing I've ever seen as a journalist," Baker tweeted. 

After the story ran in the Boston Globe, Baker knew he would be a part of the Huynh brothers' epilogue. 

"I stayed close to the boys, partly out of an obligation, but mostly because I cared about them. They inspired me. And they were fun," Baker tweeted. "But I also became something of a mentor to them. Freed from my constraints as a journalist, I could step into their lives and help."

And so he did. When Johnny got into U-Mass, Amherst, Baker drove him to college. He helped George with college essays. Little "cracks," Baker called them -- cracks left by the absence of a parental figure, cracks he felt obliged to fill.

"Which brings us to today," Baker continued, in his 37th tweet of the story. "Today is a very special day for George."

After years of mentorship -- and a lifetime for George Huynh -- George revealed that he got into Yale.

"I was sitting at my desk, and I started crying," Baker tweeted (that was #41).

"These boys are the nearest I've ever come to that thing we call The American Dream," he continued.

Now, it was time for celebration. The story had swept across the social network, and complete strangers had chimed in to celebrate George Huynh's happy ending.

"I wish I had the time to acknowledge each and every one of my congratulations but know that I am grateful for you support,"  Huynh tweeted from his own account. "Thank you."

Read Baker's full account on his Twitter timeline here.  

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