Harlem High School Senior Nabs Interview With Michelle Obama

The first lady advised the soon-to-be first-generation college student to "walk proud, work hard [and] be confident."

Posted: 04/08/2014 04:45 PM EDT
Michelle Obama Advises First Generation College Student to "Walk Proud"

What better way to gain valuable life lessons from the first lady of the United States than to interview her in person?

That is exactly what 18-year-old high school senior Nene Sy did. 

The Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem student recently met with First lady Michelle Obama to discuss making mistakes, asking for help and gaining self-confidence. 

"I want all young girls out there to work on that self-confidence, that eternal peace of mind and happiness," she told Sy.

Sy was joined by veteran journalist Barbara Walters and Ann Tisch, founder and president of the Young Women's Leadership Schools during the recent screening and discussion of the filmed interview at the 5th annual Women of the World Summit.

As of this fall, Sy will become the first member of her family to attend college, so she asked Obama for advice on entering new academic territory.

"Know you can do this," said Obama, a fellow first-generation college student. She also mentioned the importance of looking to family for support, not being afraid to ask for help and the value of persistence and failures.

"I say this to my girls all the time: Greatness comes from learning from those mistakes," she said. "Walk proud, work hard, and be confident."

The two also had something else in common: their noticeable height. Sy referred to this when addressing the matter of insecurities and peer pressure among teenagers.

"I’m 5-foot-9 and at first, I didn’t like being tall," she said. "What was it like for you growing up?"

"When you’re this age, you just want to be like everybody else,” said Obama. “But then you start growing up and you realize whether you’re 5-foot-9, or 5-foot-10 like we are, or 4-foot-10, it’s about how you feel about yourself. So, you learn to own that height."

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(Photo: courtesy Women in the World)

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