Shukria (Columbia University, Pre-medicine)

Shukria has grown up in a family that came here from Afghanistan before she was born. The death of her father put additional responsibilities on her as an elder sister. Her mother has taught her to respect the values embedded so deeply in the family. Some of those values have to do with traditional roles for women, making it more difficult to succeed. “School,” Shukria writes, “is the place where I come not only to learn how to read and write perfectly, but also where I can explore without rules.” That school is the Young Women’s Leadership School of Queens, where her record is outstanding, and she is the class valedictorian. And her goals are high: “I want to get a PhD,” she writes. “I want to be an influential woman in the field of science. I will wear my headscarf as loosely as I wish to, and speak up for what I believe in. I will walk with my head held high, and look straight into the eyes of anyone I am talking to.” Her eventual goals include becoming a pediatrician, and opening a children’s clinic in Afghanistan. Her next step on that path takes her to Columbia. But she has certainly not lost sight of her family’s underlying values. “My experiences mold me into a mature person,” she writes, “because I am expected to act as a role model for my younger brother and need to be the best version of myself to show him there is no excuse for giving up.”