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SHESpeaks: Zaniya Lewis (S2, Ep.8)

It’s September – the leaves are changing and the temperature is dropping. It’s back to school season! To celebrate this year’s return to school, we’re featuring SHEsInCollege, and this month’s guest is a true gift.

While still in high school, Zaniya Lewis entered a competition where she detailed the adversities she had overcome throughout her educational experience. As the only African American student in her small private high school in New Jersey, Zaniya wrote about her experiences as an ‘only’ in her classes, and her passion for doing good (like when she and some classmate founded the Kindness Project that supports nonprofits in the area). She won the competition, and her prize? A personal interview, meet-and-greet and photo shoot with First Lady Michelle Obama. And their photo was on the cover of Seventeen magazine.

“Continue to ask questions. College is about having other people help you on your journey. You can’t do it alone.”

But her journey to impact the lives of others and support their journey toward education, one of her passions, hasn’t ended with her hour at the White House. Since then, she began college at George Washington University and begin sharing stores of other students who have overcome adversity throughout their educational experiences. As more and more people become interested in the stories – Zaniya and her team knew they were onto something. It was the power of sharing their strength through adversity that was impacting the people around them. And the Yes She Can Campaign was born.

The Campaign is a nonprofit initiative that is dedicated to empowering girls and young women as they pursue their educational journeys. And Zaniya is just getting started.

“You’re going to go through a lot of obstacles in life. But you have to keep climbing.”

Though the group already has workshops, programming, a business tour, a remote internship experience that supports students who are looking for training but are unable to work for free, a popular blog and more, they aren’t done. Just this week they launched a whole new experience, thanks to a new grant, where young girls at a DC high school have access to college readiness programming and workshops.

Though she’s busy running her nonprofit and encouraging girls everywhere to push beyond all limitations and work towards pursuing their education, she still has homework to turn in and exams to study for. Last weekend she took the LSAT – she’s hoping to go to law school next year – and is continuing to dream toward what’s next.

Follow the Yes She Can Campaign, and Zaniya’s work, here.

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