YCteen Alum Invited to The White House

You may have heard that a student speaker at the City College of New York (CCNY) commencement so wowed Michelle Obama that she received an invitation to the White House.

That student is former Youth Communication teen writer Orubba Almansouri, CCNY 2016 salutatorian. She gave a rousing speech to the graduates.

Yet, she almost didn’t get to go to college.

As a teen writer for YCteen magazine in 2009, Orubba wrote “University of Kitchen,” a story about her struggle to pursue an education to break free from the “girls don’t go to college” tradition in her Yemeni family.

Orubba loved school and longed to attend college, but the decision was ultimately up to her father. He had already been criticized by family and peers for sending his daughters to high school.

In her story, Orubba wrote “There is always a question mark over my future. Even though my father put me in school, sometimes he still thinks the way other men in my family do. When I’m feeling hopeful, I think my dad will let me go to college.

“Sometimes, though, I feel that everything I do is for no reason and that I will never be able to go to college or even finish high school.”

Writing that story as a teen helped Orubba make the strongest possible case to her father for continuing her education. Thankfully, he encouraged her.

Seven years after publishing that story, Orubba expressed her gratitude for her father in her commencement speech. “I experienced the support from a man who has made it possible and accepted to engage in debates and arguments with his outspoken daughter…He stood up for me. He did not lock me up. He did not shut me off.”

In her speech, Orubba emphasized her fight to pursue her education, an effort that many of her CCNY classmates could relate to. With the support of her family, she broke a “tribal tradition,” and paved the road for a dozen other girls in her extended family to get their high school diplomas./

“A simple conversation has the power to change the mind,” she said to a cheering crowd.

After the commencement ceremony, Orubba was invited by the First Lady to speak at the United State of Women Summit at the White House, on the “Let Girls Learn” Panel.

Orubba’s “University of Kitchen” story will be featured in Real As Me, Youth Communication’s forthcoming girls’ empowerment curriculum. She’ll begin a master’s in near eastern studies at New York University in the fall and after that pursue her PhD at the University of Michigan.

>> Watch Orubba’s powerful commencement speech about how she escaped the “university of kitchen.”

>> Read “University of Kitchen,” Orubba’s story from 2009 in YCteen

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