TODAY   |  April 05, 2014

High school student interviews Michelle Obama

Nene Sy, a senior at the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, was given the opportunity to interview first lady Michelle Obama. The interview, to be shown at the Women in the World Summit, included some inspirational messages. TODAY’s Lester Holt interviews Nene Sy.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now on a saturday morning with the young woman who was recently handed a very big assignment, a chance to interview first lady michelle obama . luckily, 18-year-old nana cy was up for the task. she is from the leadership of east harlem and her interview will be shown at the women of the world summit this morning in new york city . good morning. great to see you.

>> great to see you, too.

>> this opportunity was extended, because i understand the first lady wanted to talk or wanted to be interviewed by someone who, like her, was the first in their family to go to college.

>> yes.

>> how did -- i understand it was quite secretive, the selection process. how did you find out about this?

>> well, it was the day of my birthday. my principal came up to me, and she was like, i need you in my office. and she told me, i cannot tell you what it's for, but you will have an interview today. so i had another interview with a young lady who was in the 11th grade . and the next day, she called my house and said nene, you were called to interview michelle obama . and i couldn't believe it.

>> and you had just a couple weeks to prepare.

>> yeah.

>> and any idea what you wanted to ask her about the start?

>> yeah, i knew it was about education, so i watched a bunch of her videos, i got my questions from what i saw, and that was it.

>> you had at one point a very personal question for her. i'd like to play it, if we could, and then we'll talk. here it is.

>> first-generation college student , like i am. do you have any advice for me?

>> i want you to push all the doubt out of your head, first and foremost, because it starts with how confident you feel about yourself. and i want you to know that you can't do this alone, nor should you. don't be afraid to ask questions, don't be afraid to ask for help, because everyone does it, okay? so, that's what i want you to do.

>> very great advice. i mean, she was looking right at you. what was that like?

>> it was great, because that was something i struggled with, and she told me how you use your doubt to strengthen yourself and you use the doubt you get from others to build fuel and to push yourself forward. so, that's something that i will be taking with me to college.

>> she also told you to accept failure, and that's a notion we don't like to talk about.

>> yeah.

>> we always like to say you can do whatever you want , but did you think about that after she said it?

>> yeah, i feel like she meant that, when you fail, that's not the end. you should get up, pick your feet back up and do, try harder than you tried before.

>> very cool. and you're going -- at the summit later on, i know they're going to show some of this interview and barbara walters is going to interview you. quite a big deal . congratulations.

>> thank you.

>> by the way, you're going to school, going to college --

>> at gettysburg.

>> you buried the lead. you got a full ride, didn't you?

>> yeah.

>> congratulations. your family must be incredibly proud of you. nene, thanks for being here.