Rhiana Gunn-Wright graduated Magna Cum Laude from Yale University last May with majors in African-American studies and women's gender and sexuality studies. She also graduated from Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora in 2007. She works at the Institute for Women's Policy Research and plans to study comparative social policy at Oxford.
"I just feel it's amazing, I just feel really, really humble and grateful," Gunn-Wright told ABC7.
She said she felt anxious but confident about the interview. She made sure she had on her good luck charm, a bracelet a friend gave her from the Dominican Republic.
"I don't know if you said what I think you said. I didn't know it was real until people started hugging me and I was like, this actually happened," Gunn-Wright said.
The one-time aspiring journalist believes policies are shaped by the stories we tell about each other and about ourselves.
"Ultimately, use the things that I find to create social welfare policies that are more effective and more humane," Gunn-Wright said.
The 23-year-old spent her childhood growing up in Englewood, one of the most dangerous neighborhood is the city. While the community is often highlighted for negative reasons, Gunn-Wright discovered there were smart and ambitious people who just didn't the get the opportunity to shine.
"I have a lot of work to do. So I just have to keep reminding myself that this is not the end. It's incredible but it's only the beginning. And it's just a stepping stone to do the work that I really want to do in the world," she said.
Gunn-Wright heads to Oxford next October along with Ben Wilcox of Winnetka. Wilcox is a senior at Harvard University majoring in history. He plans to pursue Latin American studies.