Harper students look forward to brighter future after Washington - FOX 35 News Orlando

Harper students look forward to brighter future after Washington visit

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Harper High School students returned to the South Side on Friday after a once in a lifetime experience in Washington D.C. First Lady Michelle Obama invited them after a visit in April.

Students called the two-day trip to our nation's capital "mind-blowing."

After meeting with the first lady at the White House, President Obama surprised them with a visit to the Oval Office and they received one more surprise visit on Friday – from Mayor Emanuel.

"I'm really proud of you," Emanuel said.

The mayor had a quiet and private conversation with the Harper students at their school, asking them about their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Washington.

Given all of the violence these kids have seen over the years and on a day-to-day basis, Michelle Obama wanted to visit the school in April to hear their stories and talk with them about youth empowerment, despite difficult circumstances.

At the first lady's invitation, they visited the White House, Howard University and had dinner on the White House lawn.

Given the chance to see all the things they could accomplish with hard work and dedication, the students realized that they can achieve their dreams, no matter where they come from.

"I know that I want to go far in life," senior David Ellis said. "Seeing where I could possibly go, that's mind-blowing."

"Walking in to Barack Obama's Oval Office - I never thought be that close to the president," senior Tishonda Hall said. "He shook my hand and gave me a hug. I was going to fall out!"

"Michelle Obama walked in the door and said, ‘Hi!' I was like, "That's Michelle Obama.' Then she hugged everybody." said. "She hugged me and I almost cried."

"We met so many important people, in one week," junior Malike Cook-Bey said. "That is just excellent!"

When Mrs. Obama first extended the invitation, Harper's principal reached out to Mayor Emanuel, who reached out to a private donor to find a way to fund the trip. Chuck Smith from Skadden Law Firm, which specializes in corporate litigation, donated the money for the all-expenses-paid trip.

The students said they have never met Smith, but they are so grateful to him for the opportunity. They said they were amazed that someone who didn't know them would invest in them – in their future.

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