Forging the Future
The Obama Foundation Futures Series exposes high school students to a variety of career pathways through intimate conversations with accomplished leaders about their experiences.
The idea behind the Futures Series is simple—if you can see it, you can be it.”
—Valerie Jarrett, Obama Foundation CEO
Part of our ongoing commitment to Chicago is making sure the youth in our community see their full value and potential.
That’s why last year, Mrs. Obama sat down with young people from Hyde Park Academy—the high school located right across the street from the site of the Obama Presidential Center—to talk about their career aspirations and what they need to succeed.
That conversation sparked the Futures Series. Beginning in February 2022, this ongoing collaboration with Hyde Park Academy brings speakers from all types of fields to share their career journeys with the students. The program speaks to our commitment to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world. And it’s initiatives like this that will be the core of our work at the future Presidential Center.
Students across grade levels were selected by advisors to participate in the series based on their career aspirations—allowing them to meet professionals in a range of industries from finance and entrepreneurship, to sports and journalism, and of course, public service.
“We want every young person to see the accomplishments of the speakers in this series as within their own reach and to dream a little bit bigger,” said Valerie Jarrett. “This initiative is just one of the ways the Obama Foundation is focused on engaging youth in our front yard and it’s the kind of activity that we are thrilled to bring to life when the Obama Presidential Center opens its doors.”
Check out the talented guests who joined us for the Series:
Towards the end of their school year, students had the opportunity to ask President Obama questions about his early career decisions, his time in office, and the unexpected turns he encountered along the way.
“I didn’t have a clear cut path to becoming the President of the United States, I took many roads to get to where I am today and it took me a while to get there,” President Obama shared. “There is so much pressure around what you’re going to do when you grow up and the truth is you have room and time to explore a bunch of ideas. You all are so young and you shouldn’t feel bad that you haven’t figured it out yet.”
Students also had the opportunity to learn from Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett, who spoke about her journey and encouraged students to expand their horizons with new connections and experiences.
Ariel Investments Founder John Rogers brought along his mentee Myles Gage, Founder of Rapunzl, who spoke with students about finance.
Former president of the Seattle King County Branch of the NAACP Professor Carl Mack, who spoke about the importance of understanding your history and those who came before you as part of a special Black History Month event.
Elle Ramel, Director of GET (Gender Equality in Tech) Chicago, moderated a women-led panel on entrepreneurship that included The Gray Matter Experience Founder Britney Robbins, Skill Scout Media CEO & Co-Founder Elena Valentine, and Brand Strategist & Project Manager at Gumbo Media Sierra Council
Executive Director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and Mrs. Obama’s brother Craig Robinson shared his story and inspired students to dream big and accomplish their goals.
ABC News President Kim Godwin, the first Black woman to lead a major news broadcast, spoke about the TV news production process, the importance of representation in media and shared career wisdom.
City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado, who spoke about opportunities at CCC and introduced young people to careers in higher education.
Stay tuned for more information about the Futures Series for the 2022-2023 school year!