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After Visit With President Obama, South Side Teens Ready To Chase Dreams

By Mark Konkol | June 20, 2013 6:46am
 Hyde Park Academy graduate Robert Scates was one of the boys from the Becoming A Man mentoring program to visit President Obama at the White House.
Hyde Park Academy graduate Robert Scates was one of the boys from the Becoming A Man mentoring program to visit President Obama at the White House.
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DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner

WOODLAWN — You just can’t beat lunch with President Barack Obama.

Just ask the guys from the Becoming A Man mentoring program at Hyde Park Academy who the president summoned to the White House to celebrate Father’s Day over a burgers and fries.

“It was wonderful. Fantastic,” BAM member Robert Scates said. “Amazing.”

The guys didn’t get as much one-on-one time with the president as they did back in February when Obama visited their school, but hanging out in the Oval Office sure made up for it.

“We didn’t get to sit at his desk, but the president showed us a bunch of different things and we got to take a picture with him in the Oval Office,” Scates said. “He hung out for a bit. He said he was proud of us for graduating. He told us to keep in touch.”

The First Dog, Bo, made an appearance at the Father’s Day lunch, too.

“We petted him and took pictures,” Scates said. “We couldn’t take pictures with the president on our own phones or anything. But we got to shake the president’s hand and a photographer took pictures for us that the president said he would sign and send to us.”

The boys returned to Chicago in time for the seniors in the group, including Scates, to make Monday’s graduation ceremony.

Before meeting Obama earlier this year there was a real chance that Scates would have had to attend summer school. But the president inspired him to make a change in his life and he got his grades together.

“Graduation was great. The school told everyone my story and they gave me an award for making the most improvement,” Scates said. “I got a plaque with my name on it. It was so great.”

Scates already has a summer job working at a factory that makes packaging for Dunkin' Donuts. He’s saving up money to pay for his freshman year at Columbia College, where he’ll study music engineering.

He’s making big plans and following the last bit of advice Obama gave him over lunch last week.
“He told us to stay focused and do what we gotta do to succeed,” Scates said. “I’m on it.”

My Chicago update:

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin was touched when he heard Aimee and Yuriy Zmysly, a Marine corporal recovering from a debilitating brain injury, were expecting a daughter.

The couple’s amazing love story inspired Durbin’s successful push to pass the Care Givers Act, a program that provides financial assistance to family members who care for severely disabled veterans.

"Aimee married Yuriy after he sustained his devastating injury,” Durbin said. “There is no greater definition of love. Their child will bring them the joy they deserve and our caregiver program will give this veteran and his family a helping hand."