TODAY | February 04, 2013
>>> the grio's 100 list, coinciding with black history month. celebrates african- americans who are making a difference in sports, entertainment, politics, education and more. david wilson is the executive editor of grio.com. and leah neale , who made her list, by swimming to the bronze as a bron olympian in the 2012 london olympics .
>> we are a division of nbc news. we launched in june 2009 . we wanted to do something where each year we celebrate african- american history month in a different way, looking forward . we always honor our past, but we also want to honor the folks who are coming forward today, who will be doing great things in the years to come.
>> this suspect just a list that affects african- americans . it affects all americans .
>> absolutely. president obama talks about citizenship. you can't find a list of better citizens, people who are actually, you know, really making sure that children have better education, that there's health awareness, who are actually volunteering, going into service for our country. so this list is really about 100 americans who just happen to be black.
>> let's talk about the young woman sitting here, leah neale . besides the obvious, the medals around her neck, what is it about her that made you want to put her on this list?
>> she's obviously very well accompli accomplished, won a bronze at the last olympics. we also see she's going to have a very bright future, hoping to see her down in brazil in 2016 . so she's -- i think she's quite poised and accomplished and very much an inspiration to a lot of young african-american women.
>> this is a sport where you don't see a lot of african- americans chart an inkr incredible path as you have been able to. what do you say to those who aspire to what you have done?
>> i think what i would say to those people who kind of look up to me or kind of do what i did, just to keep to it. keep to your goals. it's not going to be like 100% like easy the whole way. but you just have to be persistent and you'll eventually achieve what you want to achieve.
>> you're going to be a role model for all these kids who are coming up. who inspired you? who is your role model?
>> while i was growing up with swimming -- when i first got involved in the sport, i very much looked up to natalie coughlin . she was just like the it girl. she was everywhere. she was beautiful and fast. she had so much accomplishments. and then as i grew older, i started looking up to more and more of the national team . and then to be on the same team as them and represent the u.s. was just amazing. i realized how great all these people actually were.
>> you're a high school senior , going to stamford, soon, too.
>> and had you vu stve you stopped to thin k about how your life has changed? when you win that medal, obviously, it takes you in a whole different direction. how has your life changed since then?
>> it's changed a lot with all the media, interviews and also getting to meet very interesting and new people. it's just been -- it's changed for the better. i'm so blessed to have this.
>> we look forward to seeing you, hopefully in rio, as david wilson talked about. david wilson and leah neale , thank you so much. you can find out more on thegrio.com.