Oakland senior accepted to 120 colleges after immigrating from Uganda

This is a very exciting time for one particular high school senior about to graduate in Oakland.

Helms Atekega hit the high notes with relative ease and sings with joy. He has a good reason.  

The 18-year-old was accepted to 120 colleges around the country.

"I feel very lucky that I was well-prepared. I had a wonderful guidance counselor and parents who were supportive of this whole process," he said on Tuesday. 

Helms gave KTVU a tour of his mountain of acceptance letters, as he and his father, Chris Atekega, opened up a suitcase that was filled with offers and scholarship offers from colleges he applied to around the country.

It's a major accomplishment since Helms immigrated to the United States from his homeland of Uganda just five years ago. 
His mother and younger brother are still there.  

He's now a graduating senior at Head Royce, a private school in Oakland.

He has a 3.94 grade point average.  

Hels said it was a challenge navigating the cultural differences between the two countries.

"Taking it day by day. I had wonderful people around me, like my parents and my grandparents helping me each step of the way," Helms said. 

Helms honed his skills by singing on the streets of San Francisco.  

He said he's been singing for as long as he can remember. 

"It gives me confidence in everything I've tried, in all the academic realms I'm interested in," he said "I definitely always come back to music and singing. That's sort of my safe haven." 

Among the college acceptance letters he received was one from UC Berkeley.

That's where Helms had decided to go.

His father is a graduate of UC Berkeley.

He is now a tech entrepreneur.

He said he didn't influence his son's decision.

"I gave him encouragement to follow his dreams, not go to Berkeley specifically," said Ategeka.  

"This is the gown. This is the first time I'm opening it," Helms said. 

At UC Berkeley, he plans to major in music and minor in global studies.

His advice to other young people:  

"Keeping your head up, going for it , prevailing and not letting all the noise get to you."  

Helms is scheduled to graduate from high school on June 8.

He's a member of the Pacific Boy Choir Academy in Oakland.

Helms plans to travel with the group to perform in Peru this summer.

He is scheduled to start classes at UC Berkeley in mid-August. 

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU.