Barack Obama Surprises Chicago South Side Youth

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On Tuesday, July 16, a dozen youth participating in the Obama Youth Jobs Corps summer program received the surprise of a lifetime. 

Former President Barack Obama popped in on them during their visit to the Obama Foundation offices in Chicago for the summer program dedicated to offering workforce readiness, a joint effort between his foundation and Urban Alliance, a national nonprofit youth development organization. 

Obama was quickly greeted with screams of excitement and shock.

“Well it’s good to see you guys,” Obama exclaimed to the surprised interns. “How’s everybody doing?”

The teens initially visited the foundation offices to meet with Chief Engagement Officer Michael Strautmanis.

During the surprise visit, Obama spent time speaking with the teens about the importance of job-training programs for young people across the Windy City, while answering questions from the group and listening as they shared their experiences.

“Part of the goal of this program is to expose you to what’s possible,” Obama explained. “Everybody here has already shown extraordinary talent and initiative. All of you all are focused in a way that I can’t say I necessarily was when I was your age. So you guys are already ahead of the game.”

He also encouraged the group to stay involved with the communities they came from, “As you guys know, part of the goal of this program is to expose you to what’s possible. Also to make sure that you recognize that even as you succeed, that the communities from which you come [from] are going to need you to be active and involved and engaged and focused.”

Over the next five years, the job corps program plans to bring year-long job resources and training to high school sophomores and juniors, in addition to paid professional internship opportunities for seniors residing on Chicago’s South Side. 

Last March, the program began with a pilot group of students at Hyde Park Academy High School, Kenwood Academy High School, and the Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy. In Chicago, over 80 percent of Urban Alliance alumni enroll in college, compared to 60 percent of Chicago Public Schools graduates.

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