Sunday, 29 May 2011

Inspiring youngsters

I’m not very often moved by an article in the papers but this one from Friday really got to me:

Mrs Obama taught me Oxford can be more than a dream

She made me feel so confident I forgot about the cameras

Aneesah Siddiqui
The Times, May 27 2011 12:01AM

Before Wednesday Oxford University was totally beyond my aspirations. I knew about its elite status, but I believed that, because of the expense, I would never get there. After my unbelievable experience I now believe that any money paid to attend this university would be worth it. No price can be put on such an amazing education, surely?

On the coach from our school to Oxford to meet Michelle Obama, the atmosphere was electric. First we took part in a workshop led by three inspirational female academics. The physics lecturer really connected with me because I love science — I’m taking food technology, health and social care at GCSE and I began to think about working with her one day. This day was already like a dream.

Lunch at Wadham College was incredible. I was captivated by the room, the stained glass, the portraits, the people who had been there through history. It seemed wrong to be sitting eating sandwiches, as it felt as if the room had only been used for banquets! This was a good opportunity to talk to the Oxford University mentors looking after us. I was paired with a PPE student who said that he would help with my application when the time comes. He advised me to go for hard subjects at A level, so now I’m going to put my head down and do maths, physics and biology.

When we were walking to the room where we would meet Mrs Obama, I was petrified. My hands were shaking. When she finally came through the door we were beaming. I finally met my role model. She looked angelic in white. When she was delivering her speech, I was transfixed. I couldn’t believe that she cared so much about my school in Islington. I was amazed at how close I was to her and when she came to sit with us, I was just a few seats away.

When we began to ask questions, I was longing for my turn. I was overwhelmed as she gave me her microphone, I was holding Mrs Obama’s microphone: how amazing was that? As I asked my question she made me feel so confident that I forgot there were cameras in the room. I felt as if we were speaking in private — that’s how comforting she was. She made me forget my fears. She said that we were all future leaders and must start now. Then she gave us each a long heartfelt hug and she smelt lovely.

Before I met Mrs Obama I thought that I would have an ordinary job. But now I want to be something that really makes a difference in the world. My name is Aneesah Siddiqui. If I hadn’t met Michelle Obama, you would probably have never heard it. But now — just watch this space!

Aneesah Siddiqui, 15, is a pupil at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, North London

Does it really take someone with Michelle Obama’s image and character to inspire our children?

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