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Photo courtesy of Yara Shahidi
Culture > Entertainment

Yara Shahidi Shares The Thing That Got Her Through College At Harvard

Celebrities have a monumental effect on American culture in the modern climate. And as young people living in a world so dependent on social media, it’s easier than ever to be influenced by the people we’re following. What Gen Zers choose to consume — or who, for that matter — can impact their beliefs, political stances, and how they live their lives. Yara Shahidi is one celebrity who’s taken a higher approach to using her mass influence and advocating for causes she believes in, like Dell Technologies’ Girls Who Game.

Shahidi, 22, has a lifetime’s worth of accomplishments under her belt. Pursuing a degree at a prestigious Ivy League school like Harvard (which Shahidi graduated from in May 2022) isn’t easy for anyone, let alone a woman who was juggling a full-fledged acting career in projects like Black-ish, Grown-ish, and The Sun Is Also A Star at the same time. Taking on various roles has taught Shahidi how to expand her professional horizons, allowing her to broaden the scope of her acting career and personal growth.

“I can tap into my Zoe [character from Black-ish] very quickly, but every single character I have played I relate to for very different reasons,” Shahidi tells Her Campus. “From Natasha in The Sun Is Also a Star, to Jane in Sitting in Bars With Cake: They’re two characters that I felt were so similar to me, but when I look at the characters they seem so different from each other. I think they each help me tap into different parts of myself.”

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Photo courtesy of Dell XPS

Balancing Shahidi’s professional and academic life took a lot of support from the people around her, something she’s extremely grateful for to this day. “A lot of people in my community and on my team had to go above and beyond to help me make it happen,” Shahidi says. “It took a lot of planning, a lot of knowing that for the next four years, I was going to give 200% in order to make it through.” She says it was important to lean on her support system, and she had to “be OK with asking for help, whether that’s emotional [aid], or just having someone to talk to.” 

Along with her support system, Shahidi also depended on technology to get her through college. “I used my XPS [laptop] throughout my entire senior year,” she says. “I needed something that could accommodate all the things that my life required, from music to podcasts to everything in between. It was the one thing that had all of my work notes, all of my Zoom calls, all of my moodboards for clients and my entire thesis on it.”

Working together with Dell, Shahidi celebrated National STEM Day with young girls in grades 4-12 at Crete Academy in Los Angeles, where she spoke about the importance of STEM. Shahidi is using her platform to advocate for the ever-growing need for more diversity, equity, and inclusion within the STEM field alongside the Girls Who Game program. Girls Who Game aims to provide STEM resources, support, and knowledge for underserved students and advocates for growth in the diversity of the field.

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Photo courtesy of Dell XPS

“I love working with partners that are helping give students, particularly students of color, the resources to excel in STEM,” Shahidi says. “That’s really important to me, because we know that STEM subjects are going to influence so many things in the future. Shahidi continues, “Oftentimes when we talk about biases in technology, it exists because there aren’t diverse groups of people within the room. It’s important for companies to be intentionally inclusive, to intentionally aim to be diverse, and aim to be thoughtful in their approach.” 

Shahidi has amplified her voice to advocate for the STEM field, particularly for young women looking to break into the space. “I’m grateful for my Dell family because they’re a program that emphasizes helping girls learn how to code, which is part of a whole movement that we’re seeing,” Shahidi says. “Teaching and empowering young women to have skills in STEM adds value to these spaces, and by having [these] skill sets, the world of STEM is less scary when you have the right support.”

As such an influential figure using her voice to amplify these programs with the help of Dell, it comes as no surprise that we’ll be seeing Shahidi a part of even more groundbreaking projects in the future. She’s set to take on the iconic role of Tinkerbell in the upcoming live action film Peter Pan & Wendy. “It’s been beautiful to help expand the Disney universe and what we think of when we think of these fantasy lands,” Shahidi says about the role. She attributes great respect to Halle Bailey in her upcoming role as Ariel in The Little Mermaid live-action film, sayingraving that she “really opened the door to something beautiful, and I think paid homage to so many of the princesses I grew up with, like Brandy as our Cinderella.”

McKinley Franklin is a writer, student, and Leo in love with all things pop culture. When she's not writing for Her Campus, you can catch her reading, cooking, or catching up on her latest reality TV obsession.