Tafsia Shikdar, from Newham, has won a scholarship to the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology worth £200,000 to help pay for tuition, accommodation and books.
She will swap her family home in West Ham for the university in Boston, studying alongside some of the smartest people in the world for a degree in engineering.
Tafsia Shikdar who lives in Newham, has won a scholarship to the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Tafsia currently studies at the Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre who organised her interview and application preparation with a Harvard graduate.
After a successful application, she was interviewed by an MIT admissions scout based in the UK at a Central London coffee shop.
Why shouldn’t someone from the East End of London go to MIT, why shouldn’t we dream big?
She said: ‘It sounds a bit corny but I guess you could say I am over the moon. Knowing that I am going to the same place as the second man on the moon is really amazing.
‘I really admire the people who went there. They are responsible for the biggest technology advances we have seen in recent years. It will be a privilege to be among them.’
Founded in 1861, MIT counts some of the top innovators in the world of manufacturing, engineering, the internet, finance among their alumni.
The teenager is currently predicted all A* in five A Levels, Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Biology and Chemistry.
She left her secondary school Sarah Bonnell in nearby Stratford with 11 A* GCSEs.
Principal Mouhssin Ismail with Tafsia Shikdar. Tafsia said her principal always made her believe that she could think big and make it to a top university
Tafsia said: ‘They want the brightest people there so it doesn’t matter what background you come from. I don’t want people to think they can’t apply for places like MIT because their families aren’t rich.
‘It is mental barriers that stop people having dreams. People around here don’t think they can achieve these amazing things.
‘I’m here to tell people, yes you can. Why shouldn’t someone from the East End of London go to MIT, why shouldn’t we dream big?
‘When you go to a sixth form like this you don’t think about where you come from but where you are going.
‘They teach you to think big, really big, as big as you can think. I have always been like that anyway but being here makes it more solid.
Buzz Aldrin attended the prestigious MIT, and Tafsia, a teenager from Newham, will be following in the footsteps of a man who went to the moon
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is widely regarded as one of the best universities in the world
‘It comes down to expectation and hard work. On the first day at this sixth form they take you on a trip to Cambridge to see the universities.
‘Straight away they are telling you to believe in yourself, these kinds of opportunities are not beyond you.
She added: ‘The principal here comes from the same background as us but worked in the City as a lawyer and banker.
‘He is very hands on, always in the halls talking to the pupils. He makes you believe you can do it because he has been there. It is very inspiring.’
At the sixth form Tafsia attends, nine pupils have been offered provisional places at either Oxford or Cambridge next year.
Principal Mouhssin Ismail, who grew up in nearby Ilford, left a six-figure salary as a banking and finance lawyer in the City in his late 20s to become a business and economic teacher.
Tafsia lives with her IT support worker dad and school lunchtime supervisor mum and three brothers in West Ham
Just seven years later in 2014 he took charge of the then newly opened multi-million pound sixth form centre, where he had lofty ambitions for the pupils.
He said: ‘When I speak to pupils at induction I tell them, one of you can be Prime Minster of this country one day. Most of them laugh, they think it is a joke. I’m not joking.
‘If you said that to a student at Eton or Harrow they would look at those that had been there before and think, yes, I probably can and will.
‘Students like Tafsia are a symbol to other children in Newham and similar areas. They help to normalise expectation.
‘If people around here see Tafsia has got into a place like MIT and nine of our pupils going to Oxbridge then suddenly they believe it is possible for them and their children. It becomes self-perpetuating.
‘I left a high paying job in the City because I wanted to make a difference to the people I knew and grew up with. Those whose potential went unfulfilled because of where they grew up.’
Tafsia lives with her IT support worker dad Mahmood Shikdar, 46 and school lunchtime supervisor mother Laila Sultana, 43 and three brothers, two older, Saif and Fahim, and one younger, Younous at their three-bedroom terraced home in West Ham.
She qualifies for the full grant because the household earns less than £30,000 a year.
The family moved to nearby Tower Hamlets from Bangladesh just before her eldest brother was born in the early 1990s.
Her offer for MIT is unconditional.