Blessing, 18, Massachusetts
Rain is pouring down on Harvard Yard, and Blessing isn't sure she wants to leave her dorm room to take pictures, even if the sun comes out. Getting into Harvard is the biggest opportunity she's gotten in her life, and she doesn't want to risk it by breaking Harvard's strict rule against unauthorized photo shoot.
"I was this poor little kid from Nigeria - I never thought I'd be going to fucking Harvard University. And here I am today."
Blessing is the only person in this book to use the term "off the record" when she answers questions. She doesn't want her parents - who are devout Baptists - or the Harvard administration to get the wrong idea about her.
Blessing grew up in Nigeria, until her parents won the U.S. immigration lottery when she was 7. They moved to a suburb of Dallas and started a new life. Back home, her dad was a pilot and her mom was a bank manager. In Texas, they had to take menial jobs and go back to college.
Blessing is grateful to her parents for giving up so much to bring her to America, which she says really is the land of opportunity - although most teenagers here don't recognize that.
"Coming from the third world, I can see all the opportunity surrounding me," she says. "I can make something of myself here."
In Africa, Blessing says that women are expected to be good wives and take care of their husbands. Here, Blessing can focus on herself and her career before even thinking about marriage.
Blessing is a pre-med freshman, majoring in molecular and cellular biology. Her favorite TV show is Trauma: Life in the ER, and she plans to become a surgeon.
She says she is not afraid of blood and guts. In fact, when she was in twelfth grade, she had to dissect the fattest cat she ever saw, and she thought tat was pretty cool.
"The million dollar question," Blessing says, "is why I got in here." She was a straight-A student with a perfect SAT score, but she says a lot of kids like that apply to Harvard. "I mean, I wasn't even the valedictorian - I was number five in my class."
In high school, Blessing was kind of gothic and punkish, she says. She wore black all the time and spent countless hours playing Final Fantasy on her PlayStation 2.
Here at Harvard, she says, people aren't into standing out and being different as much as in high school. But there are still traces of teenage rebellion, like the traditions of peeing on the statue of John Harvard and running naked through the Yard just before finals.
Blessing won't say whether she participates in any of that. She just wants to do well here and make the most of her life. "Harvard med school would be nice, but they take like 165 people a year, so that might not happen."
But then again, it might.
The story above is from Michael Franzini's One Hundred Young Americans, reprinted on Neatorama with permission.
Check out our review of the One Hundred Young Americans book and website - or get your copy here.