A Lesson on Becoming

Former First Lady Michelle Obama has been touring the country for the past month, promoting her new book Becoming. And thanks to the Educational Opportunity Program, 41 SUNY students from across the state were given the opportunity to hear Obama speak firsthand at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Among them was UAlbany’s Langie Cadesca, president of the Student Association.

“Just being able to have that opportunity to hear from her, and hearing how genuine she is, was amazing,” Cadesca said. “It definitely exceeded my expectations.”

See Langie Candesca's immediate reaction to the Michelle Obama appearance.

Cadesca has long been a fan of Obama, making this experience a momentous one. As a woman of color herself, Cadesca said she looks up to Obama, admiring the work she did both in and outside of the White House.

“Although she was just the first lady by way of her marriage, she made herself known in that role and she made herself valuable in that role, and I think that’s a very important message," she said. "You don’t need to have a position or title to be impactful. Michelle Obama carries herself with so much grace and professionalism, and just being that representation for other women of color who are leaders and aspiring to be great is so important.”

Becoming, an autobiographical memoir, follows Obama from her youth as she found her voice and passion in life and through the present day. Cadesca, as a criminal justice major gearing up to graduate next May, said she can relate to much that Obama said at the event. She she found her words reassuring.

“She talked about her younger days in life as well when she was just coming out of Harvard and how she felt like a lot of it was just checking off boxes — she hadn’t found her purpose yet. And for me, as a college student, that was very reassuring, because right now I always feel like 'what’s next?' But I feel like the largest takeaway for me was 'take some time to do some soul searching because it’s going to take some time to become who you’re meant to be.'”

Cadesca grew up in Brooklyn in a single-parent household with her mother and three siblings. Her family is originally from Haiti and Cadesca was its first to be able to attend college. When it came time to choose a school, UAlbany fulfilled many of the requirements on her list, she said.

“UAlbany was the first campus I visited and it felt like a home away from home,” Cadesca said. “I was able to be far away from home but also close, so that I could still visit. In addition, I was accepted as EOP, which was a major financial factor.”

And with the help of EOP, she’s been able to grow both academically and professionally. “EOP instilled in me important values, such as how to network, the importance of classroom etiquette and many other relevant skills that still resonate with me today,” she said. “I am grateful for the constant mentorship, encouragement and support which is showcased through advisement and programming put on by EOP.”

She cited a major takeaway from Obana’s talk: “Don’t be discouraged. Just hearing her story goes to show that it takes a little time and getting out of your comfort zone and continuing to push yourself to new limits.”

Cadesca added, “I got to meet other students from SUNY who were excited and were there with me. Being in her presence was just enough to push me forward.”