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Michelle Obama Inspires Harper High School Students

By Wendell Hutson | April 11, 2013 6:43am

WEST ENGLEWOOD — While meeting with students from William Harper High School Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama heard firsthand what it's like to attend the violence-ravaged South Side school.

In the last year, 29 Harper students have been shot, including eight fatally, according to police.

"The streets are no joke. Some students have been killed trying to walk home from school and some have been shot," said David Ellis, a 17-year-old senior. "I pray that I can finish high school without being a victim of violence."

Shonte Ward, an 18-year-old senior, said Obama knows how it is out "here."

"She's no stranger to the streets. She told us how she grew up on the South Side, and, while it was not as violent as it is now, it was still dangerous for her," Ward said.

Kayla Pearson said she sat next to Obama as the first lady intently listened to students.

"She is really a down-to-earth person and kept it real the whole time," said the 16-year-old junior.

Cazmere Henderson, an 18-year-old junior, said she hopefully will be seeing the first lady again soon.

"She told us she was going to see what she could do to bring us to visit her at the White House this year," Henderson said. "I've never been to Washington, D.C., and can't wait to go."

Arjay Howard, a 16-year-old sophomore, credits his involvement with the school's Becoming A Man program for keeping him safe. The program is an example of what Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are hoping local business leaders will invest in to help get kids off the streets.

"It is a life-saver for sure," Howard said. "I cannot imagine what type of man I would be if I were not involved with BAM."

Obama's taking time out of her schedule to visit Harper meant a great deal to Deonte Tanner.

"She motivated me a lot with what she said," said the 18-year-old senior, who plans to attend Marquette University in Milwaukee this fall. "She talked about how the best things in life are hard to come by, like an education, and that if we stay strong, we could conquer anything that comes our way."