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Incoming Freshmen Class Always Impresses

May is always an exciting month to follow the activities of Cornell students for two reasons. First, you get to read about all of the outstanding graduating seniors and the ways that they intend to put their Cornell degree to good use. And secondly, reports start surfacing about the talents of the incoming class.

Here's a heart-warming story of one future Cornellian: Sharmin Mollick '14, an immigrant who had to hide her studies from a family that thought females should not be concerned about academics:

It's enough to send chills down your spine:

But Sharmin managed to weave together enough odd jobs -- including working as a street sweeper at age 13 -- to pay for lessons at a local tutoring center.

At 15, with help from her largely absent father, Sharmin, her mom and her younger brother moved to The Bronx.

Even there, however, the young girl found that her gravitation toward the sciences -- and to biology in particular -- ran counter to her mother's Islamic beliefs.

Lessons on evolution and reproduction were taboo.

"She would see the pictures [in my books] and ask, 'What the hell are you studying?' " said Sharmin. "I had to hide myself and study behind her back."

This included epic sessions where she would lay towels down in the bathtub and recline against the basin for hours, hampered by her struggles with the English language.

It wasnt until 11th grade when Sharmin aced the college credit-bearing Advanced Placement Biology exam - scoring a 4 out of 5 - that her mother began to come around.

Conversations with teachers like David Meek helped persuade her mom even further.

"I have taught at Marble Hill School for International Studies for five years and have never seen a more dedicated science student," Meek, an AP biology instructor, wrote in a recommendation letter for Sharmin's BlackRock-Schlosstein scholarship.

Even with financial aid, however, she's still $2,000 short per year for tuition - an obstacle she has yet to overcome.

Hopefully Sharmin will have no problem securing the financial resources for the final $2,000.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on May 04, 2010 (#)

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