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Queens Student Says Meeting With Nelson Mandela Changed Her Future Plans

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Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, touched millions of lives across the country, including one Queens teen whose trip to South Africa to meet Mandela changed what she wanted to do with her future. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

Sarah Clemente had dreams of becoming a journalist, but after a trip three years ago to South Africa for winning a Department of Education essay contest and a visit with Nelson Mandela, the 18-year-old changed her mind.

"After meeting Nelson Mandela, I figured that it wasn't really enough for me," she says.

Clemente says she came back from the week-long trip changed.

"I was more moved and more motivated to make a difference. I joined more community service groups," she says. "Whenever I saw things in need, especially when I visited Ecuador, there was a nursing home that my grandfather was in, and I tried to make a difference there by helping."

Her mother, Nidia Vasquz, noticed a difference, too.

"She came with this desire to be positive and helpful in this world," Vasquz says.

Now, Clemente is going on to McCauley Honors College at Hunter to study international relations, with a minor in human rights.

Clemente says she feels honored to follow in his footsteps and, in a way, keep his memory alive.

"I feel that he's done so much that he's always going to live, live forever," she says. "That's his legacy Even in somebody like me, he's going to live through me."

She also thanks Mandela for awakening something inside.

"His legacy," she says. "I think that's the most important thing that anybody could learn about him, not for themselves, but for a greater reason for the world."

For that transformation in her daughter, Clemente's mother is eternally grateful to Mandela.

"If you have to die now, you can go in peace because you did what you wanted," Vasquz says. "You did this impact in others, and you did the domino effect, pushing others to do the good things for others."

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