West Ham girl is heading to MIT and urges east London youngsters to dream big

Tafsia is heading to MIT

Tafsia is heading to MIT - Credit: Archant

A girl from West Ham has won a place at world-famous US university MIT – and wants to send an inspirational message to other east London teens.

Tafsia Shikdar, a student at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre, will be studying for a degree in engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston – the same place where Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon went.

The bright teen said: “it sounds a bit corny but guess I am over the moon. Knowing that I am going to the same place as the second man on the moon is really amazing.

She is currently predicted all A*s in A Levels Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Biology and Chemistry, after leaving Sarah Bonnell School in Stratford with 11 A*s.

Us university tuition fees are notoriously expensive, but Tafsia’s family circumstance means she is entitled to financial aid of up to £200,000 to pay for tuition, accommodation and books.

She 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 there families aren’t rich.”

The hard-working teenager wants to encourage other youngsters from east London to have high aspirations for themselves.

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“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?”

Tafsia said that she was encouraged to set high goals from herself from the second she arrived at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre: “It comes down to expectation and hard work. On the first day at this college they take you on a trip to Cambridge.

“Straight away they are helping you to believe that these kind of opportunities are not beyond you. The principal here comes from the same background us but worked in the City as a 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.”

Principal Mouhssin Ismail, who grew up in Redbridge, left his six figure City salary to become a sixth form business and economic teacher, and said: “When I speak to pupils at induction I tell them one if 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.

“Students like Tafsia are a symbol to other kids in Newham and similar areas. They helps to normalise expectation. People round here see Tafsia and suddenly they believe it is possible for them and their children.”