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Nepal Native, Incoming Student Attends White House Summit

Nepal Native, Incoming Student Attends White House Summit

Posted: August 4, 2015

Incoming Buffalo State first-year student Sumitra Acharya was born in a bamboo hut in Nepal surrounded by people struggling to survive.

On July 23, Acharya was shaking hands with President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama at the first lady’s “Beating the Odds” summit attended by approximately 140 college-bound students. As part of her Reach Higher Initiative, Michelle Obama invited a diverse group of U.S. teens—urban, rural, homeless, special needs, and more—to hear advice from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Google EDU’s Jaime Casap; first-generation student and co-founder of 1vyG, Manuel Contreras; a panel of rising sophomores who met with the first lady last year; and musical artist Wale.

“The trip to Washington D.C. was an amazing experience and the most exciting moment of my life so far,” Acharya said. “I got to meet some of the greatest people I’ll probably ever meet. I felt inspired while listening to the first lady in panel discussions and President Obama’s motivational speech in which he said, ‘If you’re willing to embrace the values that are best in us, there’s nothing that’s going to stop you.’ This moment motivated me, and I felt that students like me also have the chance to shine and make the best out of any situation.”

All of the participants, according to the White House, “had overcome substantial obstacles to persist through high school and make it to college.”

Certainly Acharya, who is enrolled for the fall as a biology major, has overcome extreme obstacles. She describes her childhood as a struggle—making just five kilograms of rice and a few vegetables last 15 days and experiencing damaging monsoons—but also tinges her recollection with gratitude.

“Despite several difficulties, my sister and I started school at the age of 6 in a refugee camp. We were always cared for by our friends and teachers in school because we were hard-working and welcoming, as our parents had taught us,” she said. “Our parents were a source of motivation and encouraged us to study well since they didn’t have an opportunity to attend school.”

In 2013, the family moved to Buffalo where Acharya graduated as the salutatorian of Burgard High School in May. The Buffalo chapter of the Say Yes organization, which is providing Acharya with a college scholarship, nominated her for inclusion in the “Beating the Odds” summit.

She said she chose Buffalo State for its quality education, supportive environment, and diverse cultural population. She spent time on the campus during the Summer Say Yes initiative and said, “I feel I can get familiar with the campus environment in no time.”

The ambitious young woman hopes to eventually become a pediatrician and travel to Nepal and other third-world countries to help create sustainable pediatric clinics. 

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