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Michelle Obama Advises Local High School Students About College

November 8, 2011 – America’s first lady told a group of more than 30 local high school students visiting Georgetown today – some of whom are from disadvantaged areas – not to be afraid of leaving home to go to college.

“My husband has taught me about pushing myself beyond my comfort zone,” Michelle Obama said. “I’ve learned that pushing yourself in that way can lead to great growth and development.”

Because college is such a big investment, students should choose carefully, she said.

Mentoring Initiative

“You should know everything about this investment before you make the commitment,” the Princeton and Harvard Law graduate explained while taking questions from students. “Is it the right school for you? Is it the right curriculum? Is it the right size?”

The students came to Georgetown from Wheaton High School in Maryland, Anacostia High School in Southeast Washington, D.C., and various other metropolitan D.C. schools participating in the White House Leadership and Mentoring Initiative.

Obama chose Georgetown as only the third school at which to promote the initiative after earlier visiting Oxford University in the United Kingdom and the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

“It is an honor ... to be a part of the learning and guidance that is so deeply rooted in the White House mentoring program,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.

Gateway to Maturity

Wheaton High School student Iris Ucanay asked how parents who may not always be available can be part of the college application process.

“The application process and the process of getting to college is your gateway to maturity, and I say that because you’re … the best person to make sure that your parents are informed,” Obama said, “...So even if you have a parent that’s working late or ... not available, this is that step where you’re starting to be responsible for the information that you get, that ownership over it and making sure that that information is then filtered to your parents.”

Obama also encouraged the high school students to take responsibility for researching financial aid packages offered by institutions.

“That’s what [preparing for] college is about,” she said. “Making sure you’re talking to your guidance counselors [and] making sure that you’re asking for the help that you need.” 

Georgetown Initiatives

Prior to the first lady’s appearance on campus, the high school students were paired with Georgetown undergraduate mentors, sat in on classes and took campus tours.

University leaders also talked to students about the requirements for getting into schools such as Georgetown and what their experiences could be like on campus.

The university does similar work with schools in the D.C. community through several Ward 7 initiatives that include the D.C. Schools Project, D.C. Reads, the Meyers Institute for College Preparation, Kids 2 College, After School Kids (ASK), Community Scholars, Community Based Learning (CBL) and many others.

“Universities are places that provide young women and men, all of you, with a context where you can do your very best work to be your very best self,” DeGioia said. “Your experiences both inside and out of the classroom will help to build the foundation that you will be able to call on for the rest of your lives.” 

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