By Kimberly Willis Green
As part of her Reach Higher initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on his fifth annual “Partners in Progress” Back-to-School Bus Tour with a college fair and “prep rally” at Atlanta Public Schools’ (APS) Booker T. Washington High School September 8.
In remarks given during her Reach Higher prep rally, Mrs. Obama encouraged Washington students to start spending time on college campuses and told them not to be afraid to ask for help. “Neither of my parents graduated from college, so…I was a little overwhelmed..” said the First Lady.
She also stressed that “attendance matters,” a message that resonates with APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen.
“We are excited that First Lady Obama and Secretary Duncan kicked off their education tour in Atlanta,” Dr. Carstarphen said. “It was a powerful moment to have Mrs. Obama remind students of the importance of coming to school every day. She is absolutely right, and that is the primary reason for our APS Day One: Be There. Campaign. Attendance impacts student achievement, and we need students to come to school every day in order to prepare them for college and career success.”
Addressing the students as “Washington Bulldogs,” Mrs. Obama said she chose to visit Washington H.S. because the school is celebrating its 90th anniversary on September 24.
Washington High School opened in 1924 as the first public high school for African-Americans in Georgia. It is the school that Dr. Martin L. King Jr. attended before entering Morehouse College during his junior year of high school.
Mrs. Obama began her visit to Washington High with a tour of a college fair for Washington students with Secretary Duncan. The “Prep Rally” highlighted efforts by Mrs. Obama’s Reach Higher initiative and the Obama Administration to increase access and opportunity for all students. The initiative focuses on the importance of pursuing and completing some form of higher education. It also encourages students to do their part to answer the President’s call to ensure that by the year 2020, America once again has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.