Winning Essay by Chelsea T. from St. Louis, MO
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Black History is filled with countless individuals whose contributions and sacrifices have paved the way not just for people of color, but for all people. Their passion for achieving impossible goals and their ability to rise above difficult circumstances inspires others to keep pressing forward in spite of criticism, limited support and systematic barriers. For me, that person is our country’s first African-American First Lady, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama. Her educational journey and how she uses that experience to help others is very inspiring to me.

First Lady Michelle attended one of Chicago’s first magnet schools for gifted children at Whitney Young High School. Throughout high school, there were teachers who discouraged her efforts. Instead of encouraging her to aim for the stars, they suggested she be complacent with the trees. First Lady Michelle wanted to attend Princeton like her brother, but her teachers felt that she was "setting her sights too high." She was apprehensive about being somewhere that destined her to fail. Despite the predictions of doom, First Lady Michelle excelled in school –National Honor Society member, honor roll student, class Salutatorian-and the list goes on. In 1985, she graduated cum laude from Princeton University and eventually went on to attend Harvard Law School graduating in 1988. A great demonstration of how to use negativity as fuel to move forward instead of allowing it to stagnate your journey. They say that the best revenge you can have is to prove those who doubted you wrong.

Although First Lady Michelle is very active with her family, she is also finds time to be an advocate for many great causes. The Joining Forces campaign supporting military families and the Let’s Move program promoting healthy living for children are a couple of efforts the First Lady lends her voice to make a difference. She has used her platform as First Lady to launch initiatives such as Reach Higher and Let Girls Learn! In her Let Girls Learn! Campaign she said, "With an education you have everything you need to rise above all the noise and fulfill every last one of your dreams." Her goal is to encourage young minds to go out and embrace everything that a college education has to offer.

First Lady Michelle Obama is not only an inspiration, but she is a role model. It is no surprise that First Lady Michelle has a passion for education. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, on the south side, her parents instilled in her and her older brother the importance of obtaining an education. First Lady Michelle embraced this message at a young age and understood that education was key to success. Her ability to not let others define how far she could go, reminds me of a poem by another admired person in our history, Maya Angelou. "Still I Rise". First Lady Michelle Obama’s journey reminds us that rising is still an option and empowering others to "set their sights high" is a must.
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