CHICAGO — As a student at Whitney Young Magnet High School, Michelle Obama was told by some teachers that "I was setting my sights too high," the first lady recalled Tuesday.
"They told me I was never going to get into a school like Princeton. I still hear that doubt ringing in my head," she told students at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington.
The doubt made her even more determined, she said.
"So it was clear to me that nobody was going to take my hand and lead me to where I was going to go. Instead it was up to me to reach my own goal," said Obama, who graduated from Whitney Young in 1981.
Her comments came as she was relating her own teenage years growing up on the South Side as the daughter of two working-class parents who "had an unwavering belief in the power of education."
Her parents "always pushed me and my brother to do whatever it took to succeed in school," she said.
"So when it came time for me to go to high school, they encouraged me to enroll in one of the best schools in Chicago," she said, comparing Whitney Young, 211 S. Laflin St., to Bell.
She would take a bus to Whitney Young, boarding for the hour-plus ride to school at 6 a.m., she said.
While calling Whitney Young "a great school," Obama said her dream to attend Princeton wasn't met with overwhelming enthusiasm by some school officials. The overworked guidance counselors "didn't always have much time to help me" get her applications together.
"And then — get this — some of my teachers straight up told me I was setting my sights too high," she said.
Her response, she said, was to study hard, get good grades and get involved in leadership positions.
"Most importantly, when I encountered doubters, when people told me I wasn't going to cut it, I didn't let that stop me — in fact, I did the opposite. I used that negativity to fuel me, to keep me going. And at the end, I got into Princeton, and that was one of the proudest days of my entire life," Obama said.