Skip to content

President and Mrs. Obama Return to Chicago and Surprise Students at South and West Side Events, Discuss Importance of Youth Leadership and Finding Passion

October 17, 2022 at 1:30 PM CDT

President Obama spends time with Chicago youth at 167 Green Street, while the Obama Foundation’s “Futures Series” returns with Mrs. Obama to Hyde Park Academy for the 2022-23 school year

CHICAGO – Today, President and Mrs. Obama surprised Chicago youth at events aimed at understanding student experiences and shining a light on resources, programs, and organizations that empower youth across the city.

President Obama surprised over 60 Chicago high school students at 167 Green Street for a day of activities and conversation. In collaboration with the local businesses and support from Nike, students had the opportunity to engage in a wide range of activities – from yoga and meditation to art therapy and even a hair product creation tutorial. President Obama also participated in a panel with Chicago Bulls player, Ayo Dosunmo, Chicago Bulls Creative Strategy and Design Advisor, Don C., and Chicago high school students Adeeb Borden, sophomore at Butler College Prep, and Aniya Hill, senior at North Lawndale College Prep. Students shared their experiences and heard from panelists on a number of topics, including the importance of utilizing community resources and organizations, like the Obama Foundation, to find their purpose.

“Part of the goal of the Obama Foundation and the Presidential Center once we set it up is we want that to be a convening space where we can have events like this all the time. Not just once in a while, but an open space, meeting rooms, facilities, activities that give people the opportunity to realize you’re not alone in whatever it is that you’re doing. That a lot of other people have the same experiences,” said President Barack Obama.

The panel discussion and event builds upon the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance initiative, Freedom Summer 2022, which engaged local businesses and community organizations to create safe spaces for young men of color to explore their interests and get support from the community as a means of violence prevention.

On Chicago’s South Side, Mrs. Obama surprised students at Hyde Park Academy High School during a special, all-school assembly to formally kick off the Obama Foundation Futures Series for the 2022-23 school year. The Futures Series exposes students to the stories, experiences, and insights of leaders across a wide range of industries and paths in an effort to deepen their understanding of the various career pathways they could take upon graduation.

Mrs. Obama was joined on stage in the school’s auditorium with high school students Zaida Soumanou, a senior, and Micaela Turner, a junior, for an hour-long conversation answering questions submitted by students around hardships, success, and finding one’s purpose.

“I was you. I am from the same neighborhood, same background, same kind of parents, same dreams, and same insecurities. If I can be here, there is no reason you can’t be anything you can imagine,” said Mrs. Obama.

The Futures Series launched in February 2022, bringing in notable speakers including President Obama, Executive Director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches Craig Robinson, ABC News President Kim Godwin, Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett, and more.

This year, students will hear from new speakers, including Bisa Butler, Hebru Brantley, and more.

“It’s been incredible to see the impact our programming has started to make on the lives of our young people – from the work with the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and the Girls Opportunity Alliance to the Futures Series,” said Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett. “A part of our work at the Obama Foundation is to empower young people in underserved communities and increase their access to opportunities. It’s the kind of programming we will bring to the Obama Presidential Center when it opens in 2025. I hope these students remember the words from President Obama and Mrs. Obama today, as they continue to weigh their options for a vibrant and fulfilling future.”

Prior to the school-wide event, Mrs. Obama sat down with 10 girls from the Working on Womanhood (WOW) program for an intimate discussion centered around their wellbeing and developing a healthy sense of self. WOW is a multifaceted, year-long group counseling and clinical mentoring program that aims to improve social-emotional competencies for girls in seventh through twelfth grade exposed to traumatic stressors in high risk and under-resourced communities.

Photos of President Obama and Mrs. Obama’s visit can be found  here (Opens in a new tab).


Contact: Courtney D. Williams, [email protected]