First lady Michelle Obama sat down with a group of Chicago students participating in a job skills program and told the teens — most from the South Side — that she’s not that different from them, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
“To you all students, for having the courage to step outside your comfort zones —that was probably initially pretty scary, ” Obama Thursday told 60 youths who are involved in Urban Alliance. “I know that feeling. I was you guys. I say that all the time — living on the South Side, looking at these buildings, wondering what was like to work in those offices.”
Obama was joined in the South Loop by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule. Rule is co-chair of the Chicago board of Urban Alliance, an organization that mentors disadvantaged teens and places them in paid internships.
In Chicago, Urban Alliance is working with 71 students from six South and Southwest Side public high schools who were not necessarily on track to go to college.
Last September, the students started six weeks of professional development training: counseling on how to dress for work, how to write a professional email and how important it is to show up on time among the topics. In mid-October, the youths started paid internships with a variety of Chicago companies. Almost all of the students plan to start college in the fall, organizers said.
In the crowd was Briana Miller, 18, who graduated from Dunbar Vocational Career Academy and will be attending Trinity College in Connecticut. Miller asked Obama, “Just knowing the challenges that come along with being an African American woman in low income [housing] and being admitted to a school where the majority of students are from the opposite end of the spectrum, what words of wisdom might you have for a young lady who is dedicated to success but sometimes [is] not quite sure of herself?”
To laughter, the first lady said she could relate to Miller and spoke of her own experience: “Growing up on the South Side and then one minute on 74th and Euclid, the next minute in a dorm room at Princeton University, which is probably the ivyest of Ivy League.”
But she told Miller, and the other students, to stay true to themselves.
“Don’t feel like you have to change anything fundamentally about yourself,” Obama said.
After all, she hasn’t.
“I embrace my background and I want all of you to do that now wherever you go. You do not turn your back on what got you here,” Obama said.
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