Exclusive Blogging from Campaign Trail: Michelle Obama's Heartfelt Hug for One Determined College Senior

The first lady, in the third of a week-long series of daily exclusive blogs for iVote on iVillage, showcases the women who are inspiring her most during the presidential campaign, including college senior Keylin Rivera.

First Lady Michelle Obama has been hitting the campaign trail over the last year to help re-elect her husband. This week on iVillage, she shares the inspiring stories of five incredible women she’s met along the way. Follow her blog all week long at iVillage.com/iVote. And, if you have any questions about where or when to vote this fall, just go to GottaVote.com to find all the information you need.

In August, I spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of Spartans at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Backstage, I met an impressive young woman named Keylin Rivera, who was preparing to introduce me – and to share the story of how she got to UNCG. As we talked, I was struck by how incredibly smart and well-spoken she was, and how passionate she was about her studies and her career. But it turns out that just a few years ago, Keylin didn’t think she’d ever be able to attend college at all.

Raised in a single-parent home by her dad, Keylin said that because of the soaring tuition rates, “college wasn’t in the picture.” It wasn’t until she looked into financial aid programs that she realized that, with the help of Pell grants, it might be possible for her to pursue a college degree after all. Keylin filled out the application, and soon got the aid she needed to attend college. She told me, “Pell grants – that’s the reason I’m in school. If I didn’t have any financial aid, I wouldn’t be in school right now.”

Today, Keylin is a senior at UNCG who has made the most of her college experience. She’s active in UNCG’s student government and she’s vice president of the North Carolina College Democrats. She also serves in Americorps, tutors middle school students who have fallen behind, and mentors high school students who are hoping to follow her path and attend college.

Keylin is fighting to make sure other young people – like her younger brother – have the same opportunities to afford a quality education. She believes, as Barack and I do, that no student should have to turn down a college acceptance letter because they can’t afford it.

That’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants, reformed the student loan system, and fought to keep interest rates low on student loans. He wants to make sure that promising young people like Keylin never have to grow up believing that college just isn’t in the cards because of the cost.

Keylin was nervous before she went on stage, but she was excited. I gave her a hug before she went out, and she did a great job. With the education she’s been able to get and the drive she has to succeed, I can’t wait to see all that she will go on to achieve in her life.

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