Brendon Gauthier stands holding a Cornell banner next to his mother and step-father.

Courtesy of Brendon Gauthier '21

Brendon Gauthier stands holding a Cornell banner next to his mother and step-father.

December 11, 2016

Louisiana Student Cries After Receiving Cornell Acceptance Letter in Viral Video

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Brendon Gauthier’s fingers were shaking Thursday as he sat at a computer surrounded by dozens of friends, teachers and family members, waiting to see whether he had been accepted or denied to his top choice, Cornell University.

“It was just the most nervous I’ve felt through all my 17 years of living,” Gauthier told The Sun. “Typing on the computer was very slow to what I normally do.”

The moment, captured on video and already viewed millions of times on social media, ended in celebration as Gauthier was hoisted off of the ground and carried around the room after quickly reading his acceptance letter.

But Gauthier, born and raised in Opelousas, La., said the viral video didn’t catch everything.

“What’s not in there is me crying,” he said. “As soon as I got to my family, I immediately just broke down. Whenever I saw them, I saw my history — I saw my life throughout 17 years and all the trials and tribulations that I went through.”

“People see that positive end result, but I would definitely like to say that it did not come easy,” Gauthier continued. “Nothing on this grand of a scale comes easy. Everything that has led to this moment was hard.”

Gauthier, who will be attending the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences next fall and wants to become a veterinarian, said he was attracted to Cornell because of its close-knit student body and the founding ideology of Ezra Cornell.

“That’s the type of environment I want,” he said. “I saw the family-like aspect of it. That’s something that I hold near and dear to my heart.”

Gauthier said the same culture pervades his high school, TM Landry College Prep in Breaux Bridge, and that the school traditionally records students reading their decision letters for the first time and posts the acceptance videos on Facebook.

“The entire student body comes around, and good, bad or ugly we’re there,” he said. “That family aspect is a key foundation within the school. [If] I’d gotten denied, they would’ve been there.”

Gauthier said he was raised in a low-income family and his mother worked long hours to give him the opportunity to make a name for himself. She also pushed him to work hard in school, telling him to keep his head in his books and prioritize classes over sports.

“If I didn’t want [a good grade] for myself, I damn sure wanted it for my mom,” Gauthier said. “If I don’t succeed, then I’m letting her down. … That’s what’s always fueled my drive: to get my family in a better situation.”

Gauthier said people in his small southern Louisiana city often recognize his last name as the same as that of his biological father, who lived in the same area and has not been involved in Brendon’s life.

“It always bothered me, because they didn’t know how much he didn’t do,” Gauthier said. “That’s one of the things that made me cry for the video going viral. People will know my name. I’ll have my own impression.”

He hopes other students will see the video and be inspired to work hard toward achieving their goals, no matter their backgrounds.

“Throughout my life, coming from where I’m from, I didn’t have a lot of collegiate role models,” Gauthier said. “I want my video to motivate that next kid, even if he’s not African-American. I want that video to inspire him to say, ‘education can take me to where I want to go.’”

Gauthier, in addition to spending much of his time focused on academics, also plays football and basketball, runs track and tutors students on Saturdays with his high school peers.

In the months leading up to decision day, he also made sure to watch the Cornell live view every day. He visited the school in August and said it was “breathtaking,” but added that he’s looking forward to seeing the snow in person next winter.

Already decked out in Cornell gear in the viral video, Gauthier said he had one more request to his mother the day after he was accepted.

“I said, ‘Mom, I need to get my Cornell license plate.’”

46 thoughts on “Louisiana Student Cries After Receiving Cornell Acceptance Letter in Viral Video

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  5. I recommend getting involved. Cornell is a big place with a lot of opportunities, but it can also be a place where everyone knows you — but only in your own little niche.

  6. Makes me proud to be a Cornellian! I, too, was attracted by the school’s mission from the beginning: I would found a school where any person can get instruction in any study.

  7. Oh, yes, I remember that. On many days you could see a rainbow from that bridge, I’m guessing from the sun glinting off the spray over the gorge!

  8. Congratulations, Brendon Gauthier, to you and your family!! This is beyond amazing!!! We are so very proud of you here in Atlanta and wish you and your beautiful ‘framily’ all of the best life has to offer – go get ’em!!!!

    P.S. Great job, Mom!!!!

  9. Shame on Brendon Gauthier for telling this lie to you guys. As his father I’m extremely pissed that he would create such a story for sympathy purposes.

    His actions are shameful to himself, my family, and this prestigious University.

    • Spencer Gauthier, High five🙋🏾 To your genetic intelligence being passed in to your son! Your family is known for academic success as well as a positive and caring heart. I am excited for the young man. I know one day he will seek the truth from his mom and she will share the right story regardless of her parents influence. There is nothing like hearing both sides and in this case your son should consider his opinion of your involvement. But nevertheless, He has your lady name and whether he admits it or not he walks in your shadow no matter what. So to you Mr Brendon, I wish you well and it is never too late to apologize.

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  17. Congratulations to this in-coming student. As a member of CAAAN, it’s rewarding to see applicants so passionate about Cornell!

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  25. Congratulations Brendon to you and your family. Two years ago we also cried when our daughter got the Acceptance letter. the big effort has a big reward. And you’re walking down the right path. God Bless you and your family!. And thanks Cornell for giving us the opportunity to believe that if you work for it the dream can come true no matter if you’re black, white, chinese, hispanic, etc. God Bless America!

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  36. Congratulations Brandon! I’m from Louisiana also, actually Natchitoches, La. This is only the beginning of many years of your schooling. This is a long-term investment in your future, look at it that way and the trials and tribulations it will intel. Hang in there and when trying times come, lean on The Lord and your family.

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