Michelle Obama Talks with Students at her Former High School in Chicago

Michelle Obama visits Whitney Young Magnet High School.

Just hours before her much-anticipated book became available to the public, former first lady Michelle Obama met with a small group of students at Whitney Young Magnet High School.

The group of 21 teenage girls were provided advance excerpts of some chapters of Obama’s book, “Becoming,” and gathered in the library for a book club-style meeting.

Obama, 54, grew up in South Shore and graduated in 1981 from the celebrated high school known for its high-achieving student body. On Tuesday, Nov. 13, she will appear at the United Center to kick off her nationwide book tour.

In the opening chapters of her book, Obama writes about her early educational journey from a struggling Bryn Mawr Elementary School in her neighborhood to landing at the prestigious magnet high school. While Obama is glowing in her tone about the school, she does write that when she attended, the school’s student body was supposed to represent Chicago’s diverse population but was instead 80 percent white.

“Just getting to school for my first day of ninth grade was a whole odyssey, involving ninety minutes of nerve-pummeling travel on two city bus routes,” Obama writes.

It was at Whitney Young that Obama was first exposed to children with privileged, professional and connected families, she writes in her book. And it was also the first time she connected with the children of Chicago’s elite African-American community. It was many of those early relationships that shaped some of her ambition.

“My worries about high school, if they were to be cataloged, could mostly be filed under one general heading: Am I good enough? It was a question that dogged me through my first month.”

At the school, Obama became best friends with Santita Jackson, the oldest daughter of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and as a result had a front-row seat to his 1984 presidential campaign. While at the school she was doubted by her guidance counselor but applied to Princeton University and was accepted despite that teacher’s poor advice.

(Article written by Lolly Bowean)