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Teen who wrote #BlackLivesMatter 100 times on Stanford application admitted

By Allen Cone
Ziad Ahmed, a high school senior at a private school in Princeton, N.J., was admitted to Stanford University after writing #BlackLivesMatter 100 times on his college application. Photo courtesy Ziadtheactivist.com/Shakil
Ziad Ahmed, a high school senior at a private school in Princeton, N.J., was admitted to Stanford University after writing #BlackLivesMatter 100 times on his college application. Photo courtesy Ziadtheactivist.com/Shakil

April 5 (UPI) -- A high school senior at a private school in Princeton, N.J., was admitted to Stanford University after writing #BlackLivesMatter 100 times on his college application.

Ziad Ahmed, who attends Princeton Day School, was told to answer in 100 words or less: "What matters to you, and why?"

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For Ahmed, the answer was three words and a hashtag.

"When I thought about why, I realized that the insistence on explaining the meaning of the hashtag is inherently problematic and the 'why' is embodied in the words themselves," Ahmed told CBS News in an email Wednesday. "Declaring the humanity and value of black lives is necessitated by the painful reality that the collective humanity is frequently denied when perpetrators of violence enjoy impunity."

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Ahmed, 18, said he wanted his application to be "authentic."

"I am many things, but I am an unapologetic progressive activist first and foremost," he said. "To be an ally, to me, means to listen, to show up, and to constructively contribute. That looks like volunteering for organizations that have been on the ground doing change-making, adding my voice to those who are peacefully protesting, amplifying narratives that are grounded in facts not fear, and naming injustice."

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On Saturday, Ahmed announced his Stanford acceptance letter with a single tweet on Twitter.

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"I submitted this answer in my Stanford application, and yesterday, I was admitted," he wrote, a copy of his answer and an email from Stanford's admissions office.

The tweet went viral.

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"The attention from this tweet emboldens my desire to learn and understand the history of how we have arrived at this moment," Ahmed said to CBS. "I want to find innovative ways to disrupt and create positive change, to be a constructive and respectful ally, and to be better a person."

Ernest Miranda, senior director of media relations at Stanford, said the school can't discuss students' applications.

"Stanford has numerous long and short question requirements on its supplemental application, in addition to the primary essay in the Common Application," Miranda said. "As the student has reported himself, his response regarding Black Lives Matter was to one of the short-answer questions on the Stanford-specific application, not an essay."

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As a freshman, Ahmed launched an anti-discrimination organization called Redefy, a group composed of 250 students internationally that aimed to break stereotypes with social media.

Ahmed, a Bangladeshi-American, was invited to the 2015 White House Iftar dinner, a celebration during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Then-President Barack Obama thanked him for his activism work.

He interned for 2016 presidential candidate Martin O'Malley and volunteered with the Hillary Clinton campaign.

On his website called ziadtheactivist.com, it states: "Ziad is just your average teenager trying grappling with identity, struggling to balance it all, and pursuing his passions."

His wide-ranging interests include political science, math, science, business, poetry, photography, writing. He also is a member of the varsity squash team.

Ahmed has until May 1 to decide where he will attend school, and he also been accepted at Yale and Princeton University,

"I'm still deciding on which school I will attend," he said to NBC News. "I'm blessed to the have these choices and I am looking forward to retreating to reflect and make a decision."

Stanford University, a private school in Northern California, has offered admission to 2,050 students among 44,073 candidates, the school announced Friday. It was largest application pool in Stanford's history.

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Since 2015, families with total annual income below $125,000 and typical assets for this income range will pay no tuition at Stanford. Parents with annual income below $65,000 are not expected to contribute anything toward the education, including housing.

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