Better Make Room

Have you ever pictured yourself on the cover of a nationwide magazine? Have you ever wanted to meet the First Lady? Have you ever wanted to visit the White House? Well, hi, my name is Zaniya Lewis. I am on the Action Team for Day of the Girl, and I recently won a national essay contest called "Better Make Room" .


First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Better Make Room campaign, which encourages teens just like you (and me!)to work hard in high school so you can shine in college.

I had the amazing opportunity to be one of the cover girls on the May Issue of Seventeen Magazine. My co-winner Gemma and I had the opportunity to meet first lady Michelle Obama and interview her about life and college. She gave us so much advice that will stick with us forever. The experience of going to the White House made me understand that hard work really does pay off. If you have a passion for something , go for it. Gemma had a passion for coding, she went for it. First Lady Michelle Obama had a passion for law and building communities, she went for it. I had a passion for basketball and community service, I went for it. You do not have to be the smartest, or the fastest, but working hard every day is the key to being successful. It is such an honor to be on the cover with First Lady Michelle Obama and Gemma. I hope the May issue inspired every girl to dream big and never give up on their dreams.  


Below is the interview between Day of The Girl Members and Zaniya 

Q:What was the most special thing you learned from Michelle Obama?

Z: Mrs. Obama gave me so much advice, I was practically on CLOUD 9! One piece of  advice I thought really touched home for me is how she told Gemma and I that being the only black or Latina student will be a challenge we will face the rest of our lives. She said that in college we should not be afraid to seek out our support systems. She also told us that people will always doubt you, but you have to use those doubting voices as motivation.


Q: What did the First Lady have to say about Day of the Girl?

Z: I did not get to talk about Day of the Girl in my conversation with her. I was not a part of Day of the Girl when I wrote the essay. But she does know about Day of the Girl, because she read my bio.


Q: What's one piece of advice you have for other girls who want to be inspiring?

Z: My piece of advice would have to be to find your passion. Once you have found your passion, use your passion to make the world a better place. I also would say stay true to yourself and always have a positive mindset. If things do not go your way, do not stop, keep going. I promise you: everything will pay off in the long run.


Q: Talk about the essay you wrote for the contest to go to the White House!


Z: The essay contest asked the readers to submit an essay between 250 and 500 words explaining how they are overcoming obstacles (or already have!) to secure a spot in your dream college; how they are building their voice for a cause they care about; and how they plan on making room for others to join them in their journey.

Z: My essay talked about my transition from a public school to a private school. I also wrote about  how I had to overcome a lot of adversity being an  African American going to predominantly white school. I also talked about my passion for community service and how that helped me overcome my obstacles. I co-founded The New National Guard Teen Panel and The Kindness Project (community service club at my school). I am a member of the Ronald McDonald House Teen Advisory Council. I also won a national contest, which allowed me to go on an amazing community service trip to South Africa with the NBPA and NBA. I also started a blog/website that talks about my community service experiences. I am also a youth speaker, and  am invited to events  to talk about my experience and inspire others to make a difference.   

Q: How did meeting Michelle Obama change your perspective on any particular topic?

Z: Meeting First Lady Michelle Obama has not changed my perspective on any particular topics. The First Lady really talked about her experience growing up, how she had to overcome obstacles everyday. I think having this deep conversation with the First Lady gave me motivation to keep working hard and amazing things will happen.


Q: What did Michelle Obama teach you about youth empowerment / feminism?


Z: Mrs.Obama is a prime example of youth empowerment and feminism. She encourages youth to get involved in their communities, whether it means participating in her  “Let’s Move, Eat Healthy” campaign or her “Better Make Room” campaign. Michelle Obama has done so much for youth in her time as first lady. She mentioned in the interview that she wants more young girls to take for granted that they are capable of doing whatever they want to. But you’ve got to be willing to work for it.

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