By Nicole S. Daniel
The Birmingham Times
Jaidynn Perkins-Martin vividly remembers sitting in her living room waiting to see if she had been accepted into college. “I opened five straight rejection letters [including three from Ivy League institutions],” she recalled.
The disappointment became so painful that her mother, stepfather and brother left the room. “They didn’t want to watch me open any more rejection letters. Finally, I opened up Yale’s and I cried,” Martin said. “Rejection is good for redirection [it wasn’t meant for me to be at those other schools]”, she said.
Next month, the Ramsay High School grad will leave for Yale University, a private institution in New Haven, Connecticut to begin the fall semester where she plans to study ethics, politics and economics and play on the volleyball team. Afterwards, Martin who always imagined herself as a prosecutor while growing up, plans to attend law school and become an attorney.
In May, Martin finished her senior year at Ramsay with a 4.4 GPA and ranked third in her graduating class. She applied to a number of schools in Alabama and Ivy League institutions, which had been on her radar since middle school.
“When I was in the eighth grade at Phillips Academy, there was a girl that got into Yale and she graduated from Ramsay. Then in the tenth grade, another girl got accepted to Harvard, so at that point, I felt it was attainable and that I could do it too.”
Her visit to the Yale campus this spring helped with her decision.
Stepping foot on the campus was “just beautiful,” she said. “I really just loved it. I felt like I really could see myself there for four years.”
When Martin learned she was accepted into Yale, she decided to email its head volleyball coach for a position on the team. She submitted her highlight films. “They only had one more spot left on the team.” Martin filled that spot.
On campus, she spent time with the volleyball coach and the entire team. “They were so nice and welcoming. We had fun, we went out to dinner, it almost felt like home,” she said.
A New Journey
Martin is excited to embark on this new journey but being almost 20 hours away from her family makes her a little nervous.
“I’m already looking forward to coming home for the holidays,” said the 6’0 athlete, who grew up in Pratt City in a single parent household with mom Andrea, her younger brother Courtlynn, and sisters Brooklyn and Aaliyah Martin.
“I started in ballet and dance, then I started swimming for a long time,” Martin said. “Finally I stop doing that and started playing volleyball in the eighth grade at Phillips Academy.”
After graduating from Phillips, Martin attended Ramsay High School, which she describes as “competitive, but in a friendly way. Everyone wants you to succeed. Everyone’s pushing each other to do better and be their best so I feel like it’s very supportive as a whole — teachers, students, everybody.”
History was her favorite subject.
“I just find it really interesting how things from the past are still relevant today and just impact us. When you learn about stuff in class and you can see how the after effects are very interesting.”
She is fascinated with the Cold War, an ongoing political rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies that developed after World War II.
“It’s not talked about a lot but it lasted a long time. We had like six different presidents during the time. So it’s interesting to see how the different presidents all handled the events …”
Martin loves to read.
“I like to read a lot of fantasy books because it just feels different. But right now, I’m reading “The Things They Carried” which is a book about the Vietnam War.”
As a student athlete, Martin made sure to focus on her academics.
“I would study whenever I could. Sometimes it would be on the way to our games, tournaments, when I get home from games, after practice, and especially during long drives,” she said.
During her freshman year, she tried out for the volleyball team and succeeded by not giving up and putting in the hard work.
“I was really nervous because the other girls were so good. I started out on the junior varsity team but by the end of the season I was on the varsity team during my freshman year. We made it to state and I got to play.”
Her mother is her role model. “She has worked really hard and she inspires me in everything I do. Being raised by a single mother and seeing how hard she works just inspires me,” Martin said.