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July 28, 2015 | by Tenzin Choenyi

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Beating the Odds

Tenzin is one of the original 10 students who went to the White House last year as part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative. Hear from Tenzin about his experience this time around at the Beating the Odds Summit:

1. How did you get involved with Umoja?

I got involved with Umoja through my school and Ms. Tossmann (Umoja's Social Emotional Learning Director) who worked at my school. There she helped me with college applications, scholarships and lots of other things. There were many days where I would go to her office instead of eating lunch to ask questions about college and to listen to her college experience. She was there to answer every one of my neverending questions. 

2. What school are you attending? What are you studying?

Currently, I am attending Gustavus Adolphus College, a small liberal arts school in St. Peter, Minnesota. Even though I haven't officially declared my major yet, I am thinking about double majoring in financial economics and computer science.

3. Tell me about the trip to the White House. What did you do at the Beating the Odds Summit?

We did a lot of things at the summit. Personally, I had to share my college experience and answer questions on a panel which I thought was the best part of the summit, at least for me. After we shared our college experiences, the First Lady, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, rapper Wale and Brown University Senior Manuel Contreras spoke about the importance of higher education and answered a few questions from the audience.

Right after that we had lunch and got separated into groups to talk about different topics. Our group talked about the importance of internships and how to get one. Soon after that session, we got to attend a music performance from the rapper Wale. The President also gave us a big surprise by showing up out of nowhere!

4. What was your first thought when you walked into the White House?

There were lots of thoughts going through my mind while I was walking into the White House. One thing that really came to my mind was how far I have come. After seeing students who were working at the White House as part of their summer internship, it motivated me to do the same in the future (maybe next summer).

5. Why do you think it's important for students to attend summits like Beating the Odds?

The reason why I think it is important for students to attend summits like Beating the Odds is because it helps them to understand how far hard work and dedication can take them. I think it will also encourage them to do even better going forward. Last but not the least, it is a big confidence booster especially for those who doubt in their ability to “beat the odds” and succeed. 

6. Describe this experience in one sentence.

It was really a life changing experience.