‘What can be done today?’

Senior Aminata Sy founded a program for Philly kids and will soon head to Congress to begin her Rangel Graduate Fellowship.

Even at Penn, Aminata Sy stands out. The international relations major was in the inaugural class of Perry World House student fellows, researching how to increase women’s political participation in democracies around the world.

Aminata Sy sitting with a student reading a book to them.
Aminata Sy with a student in the African Community Learning Program. (Photo: Omnia Magazine)

Though she spoke no English when she came to the U.S. from Senegal, she is now an English minor and a journalist who has written for the Daily Pennsylvanian, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Philadelphia Tribune, and the Sigma Iota Rho Journal of International Relations. She envisioned and created the African Community Learning Program, which gives local children from Africa and with African parents insight into their backgrounds and helps them to succeed in the U.S. Now, she’s been chosen as a Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellow, a program that will take her to work in Congress and a U.S. embassy, as well as help pay for her graduate studies over the next two years, as she prepares to become a U.S. Foreign Service officer.

In addition, she’s also a wife and the mother of three children, ages 16, 14, and 7.

“It takes a lot of discipline, consistent hard work, a strong support system, a belief in the unseen, and opportunities,” says Sy on how she does it. “I’m someone who plans for the future but I live in the present. I function with the mindset of, ‘What can be done today?’”

Sy came to the U.S. in 2001 at age 21 to join her husband in Philadelphia. She had dropped out of high school in 10th grade and wasn’t thinking about continuing her education. Her main concern in her new country was how to find a job.

When her first two children entered pre-K in 2007, it inspired her to go back to school to help them advance their education. When she learned that Penn had scholarships that would help to support her studies, she applied.

Read more at Omnia Magazine.