She grew up on a housing estate and is the first person in her family to be offered a place at university.
But a student at a local secondary school now has to choose between two of the greatest seats of learning in the world.
Paige Cunningham, 18, who is in Year 13 at Hertswood Academy in Borehamwood, has been offered places to study at both Yale and Oxford.
The keen philosophy student, who has lived all her life on the Organ Hall estate, still cannot believe her good fortune.
She said: “It seems really surreal to me, it has not yet dawned on me that I am in the position to choose between two of the greatest universities in the world.
“I still haven’t decided which one I am going to go to. My heart wants to go to America, although my head says I should go to Oxford, where it would be cheaper and I would be closer to my family.”
Paige was one of 150 students from across the country to be accepted on the Sutton Trust’s US programme last summer, which offers bright state school students a taste of life at an American university.
She said: “Going to America with the Sutton Trust was my first time out of the country. I spent a week in Yale and felt completely at home there. It’s in New England so the gothic architecture is very similar to universities over here.
“The Sutton Trust experience means I have made quite a few friends who will be going to Yale as well.”
Paige, who comes from a single parent family, said her friends and family were delighted with her success.
She added: “I’m very grateful to Hertswood , and to my mother, for helping me achieve my dreams.
"I’m so proud of myself, I’ve always known I wanted to go to university, but if you’d spoken to me a year ago I would never have thought I would do this well. I hope it will inspire other young people in my situation.”
The school has recently seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of students applying to university, with many securing places at Russell Group universities.
Head of sixth form Carey McFerran said she wanted to build on Paige’s example to encourage other students to aim high.
She said: “Paige is an outstanding role model for our students. She works incredibly hard and excels at organising her time and deserves this success.”
Headteacher Peter Gillett said: “Paige’s example shows that repeated practice at a high level has cut through the barriers she has faced in life.
“No matter where you come from, if you work hard and are dedicated, it is possible for you to do anything.
“Paige has been with us since Year 7 and the school has supported her to do well. We wish her every success in the future.”