For 17-year-old Anthony Neciosup, last week still seems surreal, as his dream to go to the White House and be in the same room as the president of the United States and the first lady became a reality.
The Astoria resident was one of about 130 college-bound students from across the country to attend first lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative “Beating the Odds Summit” at the White House on Thursday.
The daylong event focused on sharing tools, strategies and resources the students will be able to use to successfully transition to college and in the end complete their time there.
“I was really thankful for it. It was my dream to go to the White House and I finally got it,” said Neciosup, who was invited to the summit through his leadership and work with the nonprofit Global Kids. “It still hasn’t hit me.”
During the event, the students were able to listen to a panel moderated by E! News host Terrence Jenkins and featuring the first lady, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, musician Wale, and Manuel Contreras, a senior at Brown University and founder of the Inter-Ivy, First-Generation College Student Network (1vyG).
As a surprise to the students, an unexpected special guest also took the stage to welcome and speak with them – President Barack Obama.
“It was surreal. Nobody was expecting him,” Neciosup said. “I thought people were cheering really loud for [Wale] and then I saw the top of Obama’s head and I started freaking out as well.”
The students at the event, who were sponsored by 70 nonprofits, represented a mix of urban, rural, foster, homeless, special needs and under-represented youth who overcame large obstacles to get through high school and ultimately make it to college.
One of those 70 nonprofits is Global Kids, which Neciosup joined in his sophomore year of high school after seeing their work after Superstorm Sandy.
“For over 25 years, Global Kids has been committed to helping students from underserved communities in New York City and Washington, D.C., to succeed in school, graduate and go on to college through our youth leadership and global education programs,” said Evie Hantzopoulos, Global Kids’ executive director.
Neciosup, who graduated from Long Island City High School and will be attending New York University this fall, said being invited to the summit helped boost his confidence and has made him feel more prepared to enter college.
He added that as a first-generation college student in his family, he at times felt the fear of “not belonging” at NYU, but after speaking with Contreras and receiving tips from the panelist on how to overcome that feeling, his spirits were uplifted.
“The past few days have made me feel better about going to college,” Neciosup said. “And I’m telling myself that it is possible and I can do this and one day I can be an ophthalmologist.”