Girls draw power from the mes­sage

First lady Michelle Obama has left a last­ing legacy, say young fe­male fans

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ASSOCIATED PRESS in New York

Healthy food and plenty of ex­er­cise. The chal­lenges military fam­i­lies face. Ed­u­ca­tion for girls around the globe.

The feel-good ini­tia­tives of first lady Michelle Obama have served as both in­spi­ra­tion and eight years of teach­ing mo­ments for many fam­i­lies. So what, ex­actly, do they think is her legacy over a pe­riod that spans much of the life­time of to­day’s kids?

“I think she stands for kind­ness in Amer­ica,” said Alexis Shenkiryk, a 12-yearold in Del Mar, Cal­i­for­nia. “She re­ally en­cour­aged me to try harder, and she pro­moted a lot of good things for ev­ery­one, not just cer­tain peo­ple.”

Inara Aber­nathy, a 17-yearold in Nashville, Ten­nessee, has ab­sorbed many life lessons of her own from the first lady.

“She’s strong and beau­ti­ful and she makes me feel beau­ti­ful, too,” Inara said. “I feel like I can ac­com­plish things when I think about her.” Then there’s bul­ly­ing. “I was bul­lied a lot when I was lit­tle and she taught me how when I got bul­lied to just don’t think about it,” Inara said. “Ig­nore them. Live your life and be happy.”

Her dad is a re­tired Army colonel and the teen ad­mires Obama’s shoutout for military fam­i­lies. And when the first lady put in the White House gar­den, “it made me think about eat­ing bet­ter food and los­ing weight,” Inara said. “With­out her, I’m not sure I would have done that.”

Nor­folk, Vir­ginia, 10thgrader Kas­sidy Carey can­vassed for Hil­lary Clin­ton and has vol­un­teered to ad­vo­cate for var­i­ous so­cial causes through the site DoSome­ She was too lit­tle to re­mem­ber the pres­i­dent’s first in­au­gu­ra­tion, but she loved watch­ing the sec­ond one. She’s a reg­u­lar first lady watcher.

“I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate that the first lady tries to make young girls feel like more than just girls, you know,” said Kas­sidy, who plans to study law. “She makes us feel like peo­ple who ac­tu­ally have opin­ions that mat­ter and who can fight for what we be­lieve in.”

Kiki Emordi is 8 and in the third grade in Rich­mond, Texas, out­side Hous­ton. Her par­ents are orig­i­nally from Nige­ria and her mother, Ngozi Emordi, teaches English.

“She’s a bold woman,” said the el­der Emordi, who also has two older girls and a son. “Any black girl can just see Michelle and know she can dream big. She says to these girls it doesn’t mat­ter where you come from or what you look like, you can be any­thing that you want to be.”

Les­son learned, as far as Kiki is con­cerned. She is for­ever on the hunt for any news of Obama, whether it’s about a fresh speech or fab­u­lous out­fit.

“I re­ally look up to her as a role model,” she said.

At 7, Jor­dan West of Rochester, New York, helps her two older broth­ers run the fam­ily’s Cham­pi­ons of Change, a nonprofit they started to urge young peo­ple to be­come “change agents” in their com­mu­ni­ties.

“One of her goals is to help lit­tle girls,” said Jor­dan, who was in­spired by the first lady to do the same.

Jor­dan hosted a party for girls in fos­ter care and wrote a book about how she hit on the idea, Princess for a Day. She also got to­gether with other girls to make real bags for fos­ter kids who would oth­er­wise have to trans­port their be­long­ings in trash bags.

“She’s a black per­son like us and she’s an au­thor and she went to Har­vard,” Jor­dan said.

Re­becca Briscoe teaches sec­ond grade to Kiki Emordi and class­mate Maya Babu.

“For over 10 years now I have taught in un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties,” Briscoe said. “Michelle is like their Bey­once be­cause she grew up hard like them.”

As for Maya? Obama, she said, “makes me want to be a bet­ter girl.”

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