Do you know any 15-year-olds who are on their way to Harvard?
Meet Saheela Ibraheem (pictured), a senior at Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison, N.J.
Crediting her parents, who are Nigerian immigrants, for her academic achievements -- her father is said to have stayed up at night teaching her subjects not found at school -- Saheela's exceptional journey began as a 6th grader at Conackamack Middle School in Piscataway, N.J.
But this would be just the beginning.
Saheela realized early on that her public school still wasn't doing it for her; consequently, the zealous student moved to Wardlaw-Hartridge, a private school, and skipped freshman year to land in 10th grade. Her new school would end up being the right place for Saheela, giving her the bandwith to feel challenged and excel. Wardlaw-Hartridge Director of Development William Jenkins says:
"She's learned and she's very smart. But she keeps pushing herself."
But this is not just the story of a student who has mastered education. Saheela takes the concept of stimulating the mind and body to a whole other level.
From the Star-Ledger:
"She is a three-sport athlete, playing outfield for the school's softball team, defender on the soccer team, and swimming relays and 50-meter races for the swim team. She also sings alto in the school choir, plays trombone in the school band and serves as president of the school's investment club, which teaches students about the stock market by investing in virtual stocks."
And she is just getting started.
Last year, Saheela applied to 14 colleges and universities that spanned the nation with a "grade point average (between a 96 and 97 on a 100-point scale) and her 2,340 SAT score (a perfect 800 on the math section, a 790 in writing and a 750 in reading)."
California Institute of Technology, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Williams College, Stanford, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Washington University in St. Louis all accepted her.
Surprise, surprise, Saheela chose Harvard and wants to major in either neurobiology and neuroscience in order to study how the brain works.
Of her accomplishments, Saheela only had this to say:
I try my best in everything I do," Saheela said. "Anyone who's motivated can work wonders."
I am dumbfounded by Saheela's success. If she is like this as a teen, what will she accomplish as a full-fledged adult? Kudos to her family for doing such a fine job raising a balanced, ambitious child. As a fellow parent, that is not an easy thing to do.
Just a few months ago, the phenomenon of Amy Chua's Tiger Mom overwhelmed the airwaves as people discussed the strategy of raising a successful child. The Tiger Mom ideology tauted all work and no play, with everything -- consciously or unconsciously -- focusing on being the best academic student.
Saheela's parents, though, allowed their daughter (and other children who also attend the same school as Saheela) to have a more balanced existence, encouraging her in academics and extracurricular activities.
Wednesday morning, The Root broke a story about the small surge of pornography in Africa. I'm not sure if this is something that is being condoned or vilified, but the real point of the piece is to say that young poverty-stricken kids are now starting to look at the porno industry as a ticket out of indigency.
From The Root:
"In dedicated apartments, young women watch movies to learn every kind of caress, sexual positions and Western-style pornographic techniques. The 'teachers' do not hesitate to show the girls how to do things right. ... They also test men's and women's abilities."
One South African self-described 23-year-old porno star Palesa Mbau sees African involvement in the porno industry as a step toward black empowerment:
"I am getting proud because it is a black [pornographic movie]," says Mbau. "That is raising black empowerment because the porn films that you [commonly] see in South Africa are all white."
As black people, I don't know why we often use false and negative touchstones as inspiration. As I read about the African porno industry, I felt sick to my stomach. As if we already don't have enough problems to deal with, now we want to encourage our young men and women to join in the dubious porno industry.
Couldn't any of them come up with something better than that? What with all the STDs and HIV/AIDs affecting black people all over the globe, this is the best we can come up with?
Someone needs to tell all of our children that the mind is the only real ticket from hunger. That lasting success and solid bank accounts comes to those who study. That the human beings who made an indelible impact on society were the ones who pushed themselves to think, question and know.
Stories such as Saheela's show what happens when we choose our minds as the vehicle to experience all that life has to offer.