However, this is no ordinary teen, as Shweta Katti who grew up in Kamathipura, overcame sexual abuse to win the scholarship.
Katti left for America on Thursday to study at the liberal arts Bard College, where she hopes to read psychology. Later, she wants to return to India and help other young women in her community.
“It’s my childhood dream. I didn’t think it would finally happen,” she said before leaving the city, where she grew up in a brothel.
Katti’s determination won her a place this year in Newsweek’s list of 25 “Young Women To Watch” aged under-25.
It is a long way from Katti’s early childhood experiences of abuse and harassment in Kamathipura neighbourhood.
“You would see everyday someone beating up a woman, the police coming unexpectedly at anytime, and women selling their bodies – they were not happy,” Katti said.
“Men would ask to sleep with me, it was so embarrassing, but I had to face it. My father abused me, many people abused me, but my mum would always say: ‘You are the best, you can do anything’.”
Katti, who describes herself as “a tough-skinned girl”, said she faced discrimination “from all sides” at school because of her poor background.
She credits her mother, a factory worker, as her “inspiration” and says the local charity Kranti also played a vital role in helping her achieve her dreams.
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