iMentor students attend First Lady's summit

iMentor students Maruf, Maftuna, and Anthony are among the 130 college and college-bound students attending the First Lady’s Beating the Odds Summit today at the White House.

The event is designed to provide attendees with tools and strategies to successfully transition to college and persist once there. A select group of students from across the country was invited to attend based on their personal and academic achievements in the face of challenges.

Maruf, who will matriculate at John Jay college in the fall, immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh when he was 12 years old and quickly developed an interest in computers and engineering. He cites adjusting to a new school in a new country as a significant obstacle he overcame by getting help from his teachers and doing extra credit assignments until he caught up.

When Maftuna moved to the United States from Uzbekistan she did not speak any English. Determined to be the first in her family to go to college, she studied hard. Within a year, she was fluent and being placed in advanced classes. This year, she graduated among the top of her class.

Maftuna, who aspires to work in international development and promote education equality, will attend City College this fall. “I’ve heard ‘no’ many times because I am a female,” she said. “But, I decided that I would not let gender limit my true potential because I know that there are many people who believe in me.”

For Anthony, today’s visit marks his third trip to the White House since 2014. He met the First Lady last year when she handpicked him and nine other students to participate in a roundtable discussion as part of her Reach Higher Initiative. Then in January, he attended the State of the Union address as Mrs. Obama’s special guest.

Anthony is the first person in his family to graduate from high school and enroll in college. He is a freshman at the University of Hartford, but his road to college wasn’t easy. At one point, his family was forced to move a homeless shelter miles from his high school. Along the way, he found support from his teachers, coaches, and his mentor, Jack.

“It’s such a privilege to be at the White House again,” Anthony said. “All of the young people invited here today have people in their corner who want them to succeed in college — including the First Lady.”