Hear What These Students and Advisers Learned at Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ Tour

“Wait … Michelle Obama? Michelle Obama, Michelle Obama?”

It was hard to believe the news was true, but it was: Students and advisers from several high schools served by College Advising Corps were headed to hear Michelle Obama — yes, that Michelle Obama — as she traveled the country discussing her new book, “Becoming.”

Seeing a former First Lady would be exciting for most people. But for these students served by CAC — many of whom count Mrs. Obama among their chief role models — it was especially meaningful. And that was Mrs. Obama’s goal when her Reach Higher team gave the tickets to College Advising Corps: for young people “growing up in communities like she did … to see themselves in her story.”

For Promise Harvey, a senior at KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy in Philadelphia, hearing Mrs. Obama discuss her path in life helped kick-start her own “journey of self-discovery.”

“I’m just trying to figure out who I want to be, what I want to do, where I want to go,” said Promise, who wants to be a teacher and work in education policy.

For other students, it was powerful to hear how Mrs. Obama defied naysayers when she was in high school. Mrs. Obama’s high school guidance counselor famously told the young woman from the South Side of Chicago that she shouldn’t even apply to Princeton because she wouldn’t get in. (Spoiler alert: She did.)

That resonated with Musaab Bashir, an adviser from the University of Chicago who serves at Percy L. Julian High School on the South Side. (Mrs. Obama’s team filmed Musaab’s college advising work and gave him a free ticket to attend her tour.) Every day, his students are dealing with challenges like the death of a parent, or the pressure to join a gang, or a lingering injury from a shooting.

“It was exciting that they chose to highlight our school,” he said. “There’s a lot of stigma that surrounds the South Side of Chicago. People think that all the South Side is is just a hub for violence and crime. There’s good things. There’s still a lot of positivity, a lot of love.”

Musaab decided to join CAC because he wanted “a job that would have a big impact.” As he heard Mrs. Obama talk about her decision to eschew a corporate law job in favor of following her passion, he realized the privilege in both of their decisions.

“My parents didn’t really get to think about stuff like that. They just had to do what they had to do,” he said. “With CAC, I’m helping people uncover their potential.”