Inspiring essay about stuffed animal helps teen get into 20 schools

A high school senior in New Jersey who got into 20 schools is a stand-out student who made a stand for equality -- all with a little help from a very important toy.

Video Transcript

- You are an inspiration? Well, tonight we have inspiration.

- Yeah. A high school senior in New Jersey got into 20 colleges. He is a standout student who made a stand for equality.

- Growing up, whenever he felt down, he drew strength from the memory of his older brother, who died as a baby but whose parents saved his stuffed animals. So he was always kind of there for his little brother.

- Here's Kemberly Richardson.

KEMBERLY RICHARDSON: He's worn and tattered. But don't judge a book by its cover. Chris Butcher tells me his stuffed animal played a huge part of him getting into 20 colleges, including six Ivy Leagues. But more importantly, helped him come to terms with his Blackness. The Dalmatian actually belonged to Chris's older brother, Taylor, who died when he was just a few months old. The delicate toy, named Bigdog, has been with Chris since day one.

CHRIS BUTCHER: When I had negative encounters and whatnot, I would come home. And if I was ever just sitting on my bed, Bigdog was there. He's like a reassuring object for me.

KEMBERLY RICHARDSON: Chris is a senior here at Dwight Morrow in Inglewood, but felt he never fit in. He wrote about it in the essay part of his college application, admitting race was the source of his inner hatred. He felt so defeated, he broke down, and once again turned to this little guy. But then had an "aha" moment, writing, "If I did not let Bigdog's decaying structure define his worth, I was not going to let my Black skin define mine."

CHRIS BUTCHER: He's old. His neck is kind of falling apart. And so I just use that to show how his outward appearance brings about judgment to him, to kind of compare it to how my Black skin brings judgment when people first see me.

KEMBERLY RICHARDSON: A major turning point for Chris, who went on to start the Black Student Union at school. He is now soaring, heading to Princeton in the fall.

No surprise here. Chris has already decided he wants to major in molecular biology, and also focus on African-American studies. So what are his plans for the future?

CHRIS BUTCHER: I want to be a doctor. I'm not sure what specialty I want to go into. I'm thinking about cardiology or emergency medicine.

KEMBERLY RICHARDSON: As for Bigdog, he won't be making the trip to Princeton. He'll stay home with Chris's mom, in his new role.