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On Saturday, President Obama recognized Ciearra Jefferson, a graduating senior who turned down a full-ride scholarship to Harvard to attend Howard University.

May, 10, 2016

Howard University’s graduation ceremony on Saturday was one for the books after President Obama delivered the commencement address. But for one graduating student, the day was even more special.

During his speech, President Obama recognized Ciearra Jefferson, who was raised by a single mom and who turned down a full-ride scholarship to Harvard to attend Howard. He said that after obtaining her Ph.D, Jefferson, who majored in legal and management communications with a minor in public health, is planning on returning to her hometown of Detroit and giving back to the community that raised her.

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“As she puts it, she’s going to be a change agent,” President Obama said during the speech. “She’s going to reach back and help folks like her succeed.”

On Sunday, Jefferson and her mother, Yolandria, stopped by CNN, where they explained that they were shocked with President Obama called her out by name. But as for choosing Howard University over an Ivy League, Jefferson said that it was an easy decision.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Howard,” she said, adding that her Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship will pay for her studies all the way through her doctoral program. “My family always encourages Black excellence. I knew that I wanted to pledge a sorority, and the environment for Howard was immaculate when I toured the campus, so Howard was always my first choice.”

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She hopes to attend Emory University, where she will receive an executive masters before pursuing her doctorate and eventually working as the Detroit Medical Center’s Executive Coordinator of Community Affairs. However, her goals in life won’t be achieved until she can provide for her mother.

So what does her mom think of all of her success and accolades?

“When she speaks, it’s just overwhelming,” Yolandria said. “I’m so happy, I’m so blessed, so pleased, so proud. Every word you can think of, I’m feeling it.”