ABSETOU is the fourth of nine children in her family, nine of whom still live at home. Her mother, a babysitter, and her father, an Uber driver, immigrated from Mali, speak a local dialect, Soninke, at home, and try to live traditional lives.
Absetou has struggled against some of these traditions and writes that she hopes to help break "the cycle of poorly educated women in my family." Two older sisters are helping pave her way — one at the University of Pennsylvania and another at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
"Simply continuing to do my work and try my hardest is one way I have rebelled," she says. She is graduating from the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics with a 4.0 average, several AP courses, and a rank of 93rd in a class of 416. En route, she has helped students in her East Harlem neighborhood learn to read and write. She also participated in a seven-week internship to learn about relationship abuse prevention. She has worked after school and on weekends since the summer after her freshman year.
Absetou will begin her studies at Cornell University in the fall, with a goal of working in human rights, especially with women who entered child marriages.