WASHINGTON, D.C. – First lady Michelle Obama is flying 150 students and their chaperones to Washington D.C. to dote on their college acceptance, including undocumented students enrolling this year through her husband’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Amairany Bautista, an undocumented student who graduated from Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington, will be among those trekking to the White House July 23 for the special event for students who have overcome odds to attend college, The News Tribune reports.
“On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced a way to apply for a two-year work permit that gave me some protection from being deported,” Bautista told the news site.
The federal protection allowed Bautista to get a job at McDonald’s and pursue a college degree. With the help of a mentor and a 3.7 GPA, Bautista applied to several colleges before eventually landing a $43,000 annual scholarship at the University of Puget Sound.
“She didn’t think UPS was accessible, but it became viable when they accepted her and awarded her a scholarship,” said Bautista’s mentor, Melody Rodriguez. “Their Tacoma Public Schools Commitment offered her a free education as long as she lives on campus and maintains high academic standards.”
Other students set to attend Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher event also received free education because of their life circumstances, or special programs catered toward minorities or low-income students.
Dellarontay Readus, valedictorian of Memphis’ Melrose High School will also attend Michelle Obama’s summit Thursday thanks to The College Initiative, “a local organization that helps low-income apply to and succeed in college,” News Channel 3 reports.
Like Bautista, Readus landed a full-ride scholarship – to Stanford University – with the help of mentors and his life circumstances. Readus’ single mother was blind and sick during his childhood, which inspired him to pursue academics and life with vigor.
“Readus’ accolades also include awards from the National Civil Rights Museum, International Paper, Leadership Memphis, Samsung, The College Initiative, Memphis Challenge and the Memphis Beating the Odds program,” according to the news site.
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Bettie Elston, another beneficiary of The College Initiative and graduate of Memphis’ Fairly High School, will also head to D.C. for the special meeting. Elston’s mother died of cancer and the student was separated from her siblings during her childhood, but overcame her plight to earn a spot at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, News Channel 3 reports.
The students are expected to participate in panel discussions about things like academic support in college, networking and career opportunities while at the White House. The Memphis students said they’ll use the opportunity to learn new ways to help more low-income students get into college.
The first lady’s special summit is the latest in a series of events aimed at celebrating college acceptance for minority or undocumented students.
In January, Michelle Obama invited Ana Zamora, 20, to the State of the Union address after she wrote to the president to thank him for his DACA program, which allowed her to get a driver’s license and graduate from college, WFAA reports.
The first lady also declared May 1, 2015 national “College Signing Day” as part of her “Reach Higher” program.
The special day was designed to “to celebrate students who plan to pursue some form of education and training beyond high school and inspire them to take the steps necessary to achieve their dreams,” according to the College Foundation of West Virginia’s website.
Michelle Obama’s “2015 Beating the Odds Summit” Thursday “will focus on sharing tools and strategies students can use to successfully transition to college and the resources they will need to complete the next level of their education,” the White House press office wrote, according to BET.com.
The event is specially designed for students who’ve “overcome substantial obstacles to persist through high school and make it to college.”
Perhaps ironically, the program will feature a college dropout turned rapper known as Wale, according to BET and The Hill.
The Hill noted that Wale “attended college at Virginia State, Bowie State and Robert Morris, but dropped out before earning a degree.”
Online commenter BoogieFinger was also quick to highlight other obvious reasons why Wale might not be a good fit for an event centered on gaining a higher education.
This administration jumped the shark a long time ago. Wale? Really? With lyrics like…
‘Hmm, what’s the deal with makin’ money? And why black nigg@s can’t get enough of it?’
‘Bricks bricks, its all them nigg@s thinkin bout. Many nigg@s on the scene, aint gotta dream it now.’
‘A cocaine measurer, part time lover. A full time sex slave, never find another’
‘So f#ck 9 to 5, they clockin and tryna to survive. Cop a brick and supply cause nobody offerin jobs.’