They’re both tall. And lean. And wear their hair above their shoulders. When it comes to having things in common with Michelle Obama, Nene Sy, an 18-year-old student at The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, is strikingly similar to the First Lady. But perhaps most significant is the fact that they are both first-generation college students.
Sy recently got the chance to interview Mrs. Obama for the fifth annual Women of the World Summit, Yahoo Shine reports. The bright-eyed young lady, whose parents are from Mali, is headed to Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania on a full scholarship to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor and was able ask Obama about her pursuit of higher education.
“I grew up in a working class family, and I knew from an early age that I had to get a good education and I had to be serious about it if I wanted to achieve my goals,” Obama (who grew up in the South Side of Chicago and attended Princeton and then Harvard Law) told Sy. “I know how important it is for other young people, particularly young people of color, to know that they have to own their education.”
“Know that you can do this,” Obama added. “I want you to push all the doubt out of your head…it starts with how confident you feel about yourself…You can’t do this alone, nor should you…Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
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As the Daily Beast reports, Sy has had her share of adversity. At 11-years-old, her mother gave birth to premature twins who eventually died. Sy told the site that watching the doctors trying to save her baby siblings was what inspired her to become a surgeon.
“Put in the work and don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes,” Obama said. “I say this to my girls all the time: Greatness comes from learning from those mistakes. Walk proud, work hard, and be confident.”