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51st NAACP Image Awards - Arrivals

Actress/advocate Yara Shahidi Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty

Amongst the wave of scholars who are part of 2022’s graduating class is actress Yara Shahidi. According to NBC News, the 22-year-old Grown-ish” star has earned her degree from Harvard University.

In 2017, Shahidi revealed she was accepted into the prestigious Cambridge, Massachusetts-based school. Inspired by one of her mentors, former First Lady Michelle Obama—who earned a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School—she decided to further her education at the Ivy League institution. She announced in an Instagram post that included a poignant quote from writer and activist James Baldwin that read, “the paradox of education is precisely this—that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.”

Shahidi began her studies in 2018. For her senior thesis, she penned a 136-page paper titled “I Am a Man: The Emancipation of Humanness from Western Hegemony Through the Lens of Sylvia Wynter.”

Her thesis captured the life and legacy of the Jamaican novelist and essayist whose work sits at the intersection of the natural sciences, arts and humanities. Shahidi says earning her degree is a culmination of the hard work and dedication she displayed over the past few years, striking a balance between her career in entertainment and her journey in higher education.

“It’s surreal to have finally hit this major milestone,” Shahidi told Vogue in an interview. “I’ve known I wanted to go to college since I was four. By 17, I knew exactly what I wanted to study, so to see that come to fruition is a goal fulfilled.” When discussing her thesis, she added, “it was important for me, as a young adult, to prove to myself—during these times of transition—that I am capable, and perhaps more capable than I give myself credit.”

Shahidi joins a collective of influential individuals in entertainment who have graduated from Harvard, including Courtney B. Vance, Tatyana Ali, Ryan Leslie, Tyra Banks and Swizz Beatz.


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