2:36 PM EDT, July 23, 2012
An update to a story we first reported at WDBJ four years ago. It's the story of a young Roanoke woman who is the first in her family not only to go to college, but to go to Harvard University.
It was 2008 when we first met Salena Sullivan, the bubbly senior at William Fleming High School. Sullivan was raised in a single parent household by mom Tanya who told us her daughter loved to read ever since she was a little girl.
"Oh I'm so very proud of Salena it's not just about Harvard but everything she's done in school," Tanya Sullivan said. Now four years later, Sullivan is a Harvard graduate who studied English and History.
She was back home in Roanoke for a short visit before heading South to start a new job. Sitting on a bench in front of her mother's house in Northwest Roanoke she said it's hard to believe her years at Harvard are over.
"It's weird cause it was just yesterday that I moved up there then it's also felt like its been 100 years," Sullivan said.
Sullivan realizes she's a role model. "Now I have little cousins. I (tell them) 'you can do it too. Go to college,'" Sullivan said. She also has a message for other young people who may feel that college is not in their future.
"You can do it. College is great. I highly recommend it. Live on campus and and go somewhere new," said Sullivan as she explained that her time in Cambridge, Massachusetts was wonderful but it also made her realize how much she loves Virginia.
Sullivan is excited to begin a new chapter in her life. She is headed to Louisiana where she'll teach English and Social Studies to middle school students. "I love reading. History's cool and reading is awesome. I'm really excited," Sullivan said.
Sullivan is part of the Teach for America program that focuses on under served areas in several states. It is, in her words, a perfect fit.
"I wanted to give back. If I couldn't come home directly I wanted to give back to people who are from similar communities and who come from similar backgrounds and have similar struggles," Sullivan said. "I felt like my experiences and sharing their backgrounds and doing what I've done would be really beneficial for me and for them."
Sulivan plans to go back to school to earn a Master's Degree in Library Science and one day she hopes to work with young people in a community library. Something tells us she'll achieve that dream too.
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