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Noor Siddigui of Clifton, Va., receives prestigious Thiel Fellowship and $100k

10:39 PM, Jun 26, 2012   |    comments
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CLIFTON, Va. (WUSA) -- Most college-bound freshmen face four-years of papers, exams, and tuition payments to prepare them for the "real world." But the Thiel Fellowship is encouraging a select group of young entrepreneurs to jump right in. Thiel Fellows are given two years and $100,000 to bring their entrepreneurial vision to life, and one of the 2012 fellows is from Clifton.

18-year-old Noor Siddiqui was accepted to her dream schools: The University of Virginia, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and The University of Chicago. But her dream is to get more than just a degree. Siddiqui wants to change the world.

"What I care about is empowering the bottom billion. So I care about enterprises that basically allow them to have upward mobility," said Siddiqui.

Out of a thousand applicants from more than 40 countries, she was awarded one of the 20 fellowships to develop an alternative education model. For Siddiqui, the decision to forgo a more traditional route was a no brainer.

"As a Thiel fellow, I can focus a lot more of my time on my project and learning through experience in a way that I don't think I would be able to do in college," said Siddiqui.

But her parents, who were born in Pakistan, didn't always see eye-to-eye with their daughter.

"I was actually totally opposed to the idea," said her father, Uzair Siddiqui. "Skipping college for two years, with our background, first generation immigrants, that's just not something that you play around with!"

Critics of the fellowship say it encourages kids to drop out of school and makes a mockery of higher education. Siddiqui's parents were those critics, but not anymore.

"The more we learned about it, we are really, really excited for Noor because Noor has this entrepreneurial spirit," said her mother, Rubina Siddiqui.

"College is still there, all of those options are still there, but this is indeed a unique opportunity," said Uzair Siddiqui.

It's an opportunity that starts this weekend. Siddiqui leaves for San Francisco on Thursday where she'll spend the next two years working on her project.

"I probably feel the exact same way everyone feels when they're leaving for college," said Siddiqui. "I'm just nervous about leaving something old and excited about seeing something new."

Siddiqui is one of two Thiel Fellows selected from greater Washington area. The other is 19-year-old Kettner Griswold from Bethesda. They will both be attending the Thiel Fellowship Retreat which starts this weekend.

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