For­mer first lady’s visit thrills dancers at her alma mater, Whit­ney Young

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY RACHEL FRAZIN, STAFF RE­PORTER | @RachelFrazin

Michelle Obama walked in the room and was met with shrieks of ex­cite­ment.

The dance team from Whit­ney Young Mag­net High School gasped, jumped up and down and dou­bled over at the sight of the school’s fa­mous alumna.

Stu­dents on the school’s Guys & Dolls Dance Com­pany were floored by the for­mer first lady’s re­cent visit.

“I was just in shock for the whole time when she came in. It was a re­ally sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence,” said sopho­more Maiya Austen, 16.

The teens said Obama talked to them about in­se­cu­rity and em­pow­er­ment.

“She told us to be­lieve in your­self even if oth­ers don’t,” said se­nior Kristin Reid, 17, who is ap­ply­ing to col­leges. She said Obama told them that a school coun­selor tried to dis­cour­age her from ap­ply­ing to Prince­ton. Obama ap­plied any­way, and earned her un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree at the Ivy League school af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Whit­ney Young in 1981.

“Michelle Obama is some­one that I’ve looked up to my en­tire life,” said fresh­man Paige Prather, 15. “No­body else who walked into the room could have given me the im­pact that she did.”

Obama, joined by Good Morn­ing Amer­ica’s Robin Roberts, vis­ited Whit­ney Young to pro­mote her mem­oir, “Be­com­ing.” The school also ar­ranged for stu­dents to at­tend Obama’s book tour event in the city next Tues­day.

Teacher Jeanette Gor­don has taught dance at Whit­ney Young for 15 years. Be­fore Obama’s visit, Gor­don had to meet with the Se­cret Ser­vice — though agents didn’t spec­ify who was com­ing. Still, she un­der­stood it to be Obama.

She kept the Nov. 1 visit a se­cret be­cause she be­lieved the ad­min­is­tra­tion didn’t want peo­ple to know, and also be­cause she wanted to sur­prise her stu­dents.

“It was amaz­ing,” she said. “They were cry­ing, they were laugh­ing, they were scream­ing. It was re­ally some­thing spe­cial.”

She hopes her stu­dents learned about mak­ing mis­takes and lift­ing each other up from Obama’s visit.

Though Obama took dance classes at Whit­ney Young, Guys & Dolls didn’t ex­ist yet, Gor­don said. On the wall of Gor­don’s class­room, there is a poster of Obama danc­ing; she signed it dur­ing her visit.


Michelle Obama meets stu­dents at Whit­ney Young Mag­net High School.

A poster of a young Michelle Obama in Jeanette Gor­don’s class­room at Whit­ney Young Mag­net High School. The for­mer first lady signed it when she vis­ited the school Nov. 1.

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