By Lizzie Bowen | Photos by Patrick McGough & Contributed

Calera High School student Brandon Horn has made history as the first-ever student from Calera High School to be accepted into an Ivy League School after recently receiving an acceptance letter to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.   

Brandon says the journey to the Ivy League began in his ninth-grade year when he realized the importance of focusing on his academics. It was during this time that he began joining numerous clubs and working toward getting his GPA up in order to receive induction to the National Honor Society. 

Brandon also joined the Student Government Association at this time, knowing that it would strengthen his application, grant him more leadership experience and make him a more competitive applicant. After his ninth grade year, Brandon, like many others, weathered being a student during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He was remote for his sophomore grade year. During that summer, Brandon took an extra class in geometry to get ahead.  “When I came back in 11th grade, I realized that was my final opportunity to get my grades where I wanted them to be,” Brandon says. “So, I took the most rigorous courses our school offered at that time. I was in all AP and honors classes. I also attended CTEC in hopes of me coming out with a certification and some more knowledge that would help me apply my leadership experience to an actual career.”   


Brandon will take his Certified Clinical Medical Assistant certification test soon and hopes to go into college as a certified medical assistant. He says his journey into Dartmouth started two months before the common applications opened on August 1, 2022. 

Most of Brandon’s essays were written on the research he conducted at UAB. He researched if stress on a mother has a direct impact on placenta and if the placenta will affect growth of a baby.  

Brandon was under the mentorship of Dr. Colin Martin during his research. Brandon took first trimester placental cells of a human and added cortisol, the human stress hormone, in order to determine that when stress is added to a mother, if a fetus takes on the stress. Furthermore, if a fetus takes on this stress, what the effects on development could possibly be.  

After much trial and error, Brandon found that stress on mothers does impact cell growth of a fetus as well as placenta cells. After the research, Brandon applied to Dartmouth early decisions. Shortly after that, he received an email telling him to check his portal. After logging into his portal, he saw he had been accepted, and the realization of his hard work paying off led to an exciting moment. 

“I was really excited for that because that is something I have always wanted to do for a very long time–get into an Ivy League institution,” he says. “When I finally got that email, I was off the hook. I instantly started texting my friends and telling my parents. I called my mom while she was driving, and she pulled over and was screaming in excitement.”  

Brandon says he was recording his reaction while opening the decision letter from Dartmouth. While signing in, it felt like forever to get to the decision before he began screaming when he saw the words, “Congratulations.”   

“All that hard work paid off,” he says. “I was just focused on the email I received saying there was an update, I logged into the portal, saw ‘congratulations’ and immediately was screaming and jumping up and down. My mom saw my reaction on Facetime. She was screaming, I was screaming and everybody was screaming.”  

Brandon hopes to become a licensed EMT while in New Hampshire and says he didn’t originally realize he was the first person from Calera High School to be accepted into an Ivy League College.  

“That’s not something I was focused on, being the first,” Brandon says. “It was more of a personal goal. That came after I was accepted. I realized that this could be a bigger opportunity to set an example for other students. I hope that sets an example for the juniors to apply to these elite institutions. You might be scared of ‘no,’ but you’ll never know until you ask.”  

Brandon says both his time at Calera High School and his time researching at UAB have helped prepare him for Dartmouth College. “Our teachers here are really devoted,” Brandon says. “They want to make sure that you succeed. It is extremely valuable because I know some schools don’t have the opportunities we have.”   

He also says that staying after class and the diligent work of teachers at Calera High School contributed to his success.  “It is a tight-knit community we have at Calera High School,” he says. “All the teachers want you to succeed. It’s not a cut-throat environment and even though we are one of the fastest-growing schools, our teachers do a good job of managing the students.”