Thursday, 11 April 2013

First Lady meets privately with Harper H.S. students to discuss gun violence

First Lady meets privately with Harper H.S. students to discuss gun violence, First Lady Michelle Obama met privately yesterday with nineteen students, two social workers and the principal of Harper High School, in the Library Media Center, on second floor of the school, to hear firsthand about their experiences and to engage the students about their experiences with gun violence in the streets of Chicago.

Harper High School is a Chicago public school that has been profoundly affected by violence – 29 current or former students have been shot in the past year; 8 of them died.

According to the Chicago Tribune report in which they talked to the students after meeting with the First Lady, the students told story after story about the "challenges of dodging bullets, avoiding gangs and — the thing they cannot take for granted — staying alive."

Harper High School is located in the violent, gang-plagued community of Englewood. Harper was recently featured in a public radio documentary on "This American Life," which reported that more than two dozen current and former students were shot – eight of them fatally – in the last year alone.

Harper High School is located on Chicago’s South Side and serves the West Englewood neighborhood. Of the high school’s approximately 600 students, the majority are considered ‘low-income’ and 22% are enrolled in special education courses.

In order to allow open dialogue with between the First Lady and the students, the meeting was closed to the press.

The First Lady told the students she was there to listen to what they had to say about their experiences with gun violence and she would stay as long as they needed her to. She said she would take their message back to the President.

The students further told the Chicago Tribune that she wanted to know how many of them had been affected by the gun violence. Every one of them told her they had. “She said, ‘Have you ever experienced a family member hurt or killed?' I told her, ‘Yeah.'

When she was talking about how her life was and how we changed her, she got real emotional.

I was like, ‘Wow, we see the first lady crying.' Tears were coming out her eyes.” said one student. Another second student confirmed that the first lady cried during the meeting.

First Lady Michelle Obama talked to the students about growing up in a small apartment in Chicago's South Shore community, just a few miles from Englewood, and attending public schools.

She was no different than they, working hard in school, trying not to listen to the haters and taking care of her business, she said.

“One of the reasons why I like to talk to kids, especially from my city, is to make sure all of you know that there isn't much distance between me and you. There really is not,” she said.

Earlier in the day, First Lady Michelle Obama made remarks on youth empowerment at the “Joint Luncheon Meeting: Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago,”

hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel (See video clip of First Lady Michelle Obama's speech).

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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African-American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots:

How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books. John has volunteered for many political campaigns.

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