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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.

Highlights from the Obama Foundation Futures Series

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.

Michelle Obama smiles during a circle group meeting with young men and women. They are evenly spaced out and seated wearing formal attire. In the background, there is a graphic on a wall of the word Chicago and a mini map of the city.

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:

A picture of President Obama's giving a speech at Hyde Park Academy High School. Obama is on a stage, overlooking rows of daker toned students sitting in an auditorium. Teachers and photographers stand on the sides.

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.

A young girl, who is medium-deep toned, stands to say something during an event. She has cornrows, a nervous smile, and is wearing a blue shirt that says boldly "WOW, Youth Guidance"
President Obama gives a speech on stage at Hyde Park Academy High School. There are two stools and two Obama Foundation posters behind him.

“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.”

A group of students in matching blue jackest partake in a furture series meeting hosted by the Obama Foundation. The leaders of the talk are a medium-deep toned woman with an afro and glasses wearing casual attire seated next to a older light skin toned woman with medium length brown hair, glasses, and a white blazer.

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.

A man with young medium-deep skin tone and casual attire sits on a high chair next to a older medium skin toned man in a suit in a similar high chair. They are in a small room talking with a small group of younger men and women wearing similar blue jackets, and khakis.
Close up picture of a man with medium-deep skin tone. He has low, black, clean cut hair. He is wearing a beige long sleeve shirt that says "Rapunzel" and green cargo pants. In his right hand he holds a stack of papers while presenting to a group during the Future Series event.

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.

Four women, with medium to medium-light skin tone and business casual attire, talk with a group of students during an Obama Foundation 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

A picture during a Obama Foundation Youth Series meeting. The picture is focused both of the presenters. One of the presenters is a seated deep skin toned young man with a freeform afro. He has glasses, and casual attire on. The other presenter is a middle age man, bald, man. He is wearing business causal attire and is eager to call on someone who raised their hand.

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.

A image of an older woman with medium skin tone. She has a curly brown afro, a peach blazer and a white dress with black lace patterns underneath. She is standing and talking during the Future Series Obama Foundation event.

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.

A group of students in matching blue jackest partake in a furture series meeting hosted by the Obama Foundation. A line of darker toned presenters in formal attire stand behind a light-medium toned man in formal attire leading the talk.

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!