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Michelle Obama to Attend Hadiya Pendleton's Funeral

By  Emily Morris and Darryl Holliday | February 7, 2013 12:07pm | Updated on February 7, 2013 4:42pm

CHICAGO — First lady Michelle Obama will return to her hometown to attend Saturday's funeral for Hadiya Pendleton, a decision that "overwhelmed" the slain teen's family.

"That would be very good news to me," said Hadiya's father, Nathaniel Pendleton Sr., when told the news by DNAinfo.com Chicago.

"I think she’s a very formidable person, and maybe she can touch people so they can understand that things are bad here. There are kids dying. Not criminals killing criminals — they're killing innocents," Pendleton said.

"I’m really happy that the White House has shown concern and are willing to speak a few good words to try and encourage people to want to step up in their own neighborhoods. The Obamas can't do it alone, you know?"

Hadiya was slain not far from the president and first lady's Kenwood home. Her murder sparked outrage around the country. It came just a week after the high school sophomore had gone to Washington, D.C., to participate in Barack Obama's inauguration festivities.

A White House official said the first lady plans to attend the funeral, along with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

"This is overwhelming — that her life was so impactful, so meaningful, that they’d want to send Mrs. Obama," said Hadiya's aunt Kimiko Pettis.

"That’s something you’re speechless over," Pettis said. "That’s really amazing. I think that’s absolutely phenomenal. If that is the case, we’d be happy to have her in the audience to hear about Hadiya and her life."

Khayleen Wright, a junior at King College Prep who knew Hadiya, said the first lady's presence brings needed attention to violence against youth in Chicago.

"It's amazing to see somebody like her come, and show she cares about someone young who was killed in Chicago," Wright said. "Usually no one cares if a black teen is killed here. ... It might raise more awareness and keep it in the minds of people for more than two weeks."

But Jessica Peake, a friend of Hadiya's and sophomore at King, said Obama's presence doesn't matter as much to her as Hadiya's absence.

"I know it means something to other people that Michelle Obama will be there, but it doesn't mean much to me. I'll be there for Hadiya," she said.

Funeral services for the 15-year-old are set for Saturday at Greater Harvest Baptist Church, 5141 S. State St. The wake will take place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., followed by the funeral until 2 p.m.

A viewing is scheduled from 2-9 p.m. Friday at Callahan Funeral Home, 7030 S. Halsted St.

Hadiya, a sophomore at King College Prep High School, was killed after she and her friends sought shelter from the rain in Kenwood's Harsh Park and a gunman fired on the group.

She was shot in the back. A friend survived a bullet wound in the leg.

One mother of a student at King College Prep is hopeful the national attention will quickly bring the killer to justice.

"When people at the funeral see the first lady there, it will say to them that it matters," she said. "This news went all the way to the top. The president knows. ... That means something is going to be done."

A $40,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest of the girl's killer.