Beloved stuffed animal helps teen get into Princeton

Chris Butcher, 18, says his worn and tattered childhood stuffed animal, Bigdog, helped him come...
Chris Butcher, 18, says his worn and tattered childhood stuffed animal, Bigdog, helped him come to terms with his Blackness. The story led to his acceptance to 20 colleges.(Source: Chris Butcher, WABC via CNN)
Published: May. 27, 2021 at 2:18 AM CDT|Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 2:19 AM CDT
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ENGLEWOOD, N.J. (WABC) - An inspiring essay about his childhood stuffed animal helped a New Jersey high school senior get into 20 colleges, including 6 schools in the Ivy League. He chose to attend Princeton.

Chris Butcher, 18, says a stuffed dalmatian named Bigdog played a huge part in him getting accepted to 20 colleges but more importantly helped him come to terms with his Blackness.

The worn and tattered dalmatian has been with Butcher his whole life. It actually first belonged to his older brother, Taylor, who died when he was just a few months old.

“When I had negative encounters and whatnot, I would come home, and if I was sitting on my bed, Bigdog was there. He’s a reassuring object for me,” Butcher said.

A senior at Dwight Morrow High School, Butcher felt like 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 in his junior year that he broke down, and once again, he turned to Bigdog for help. It was then Butcher had a realization, writing, “If I did not let Bigdog’s decaying structure define his worth, I was not going to let my Black skin, define mine.”

“He’s old, neck kinda falling apart, so I use that to show how his outward appearance brings about judgment to compare it to how my Black skin brings judgment when people first see me,” Butcher said.

It was a major turning point for Butcher, who went on to start the Black Student Union at his high school to help other Black students with similar identity crises. He also organized a Black Students Matter protest and worked with the Bergen County NAACP.

“Bigdog, my beloved stuffed dog, helped me learn to re-write my own story, appreciate Blackness in my own terms, and challenge the stereotypes placed upon me. I am endlessly comfortable and confident with who I am. I can be myself in my own skin because my Blackness does not define me; I define myself,” wrote Butcher in his essay.

Butcher is headed to Princeton in the fall, where he will major in molecular biology. He wants to be a doctor but hasn’t decided his specialty, possibly cardiology or emergency medicine. He also plans to focus on African American Studies.

Bigdog won’t be making the trip to Princeton but will instead stay home with Butcher’s mom.

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