“She just had the biggest smile on her face. I think she was just shocked that we had even thought of her.”
That’s what Principal Joyce Kenner said to the Chicago Tribune about what happened when she told Michelle Obama that her alma mater, Chicago’s Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, is building a new athletics center in her name.
The outdoor facility, which has been a decade in the making, costs $4.3 million and will have a track for running and a field that will allow students to play football, baseball, soccer and lacrosse.
It’ll also have seating, lights, artificial turf, and the new complex aligns with Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to reduce childhood obesity that she started in the White House. The center will be open to community residents as well.
“She’s very concerned about physical fitness for everyone, not just your top athletes,” Kenner told the newspaper. “Our kids have been running on the concrete for 44 years. The students would run to Willis Tower and back. Now they will have a track in which they can practice their running, their hurdling and have contests on the field.”
The former first lady visited her old high school in November 2018 and gave students some key life lessons.
“I want you all to learn how to be advocates for yourself in this life,” she told the students the. “Because people will try to take your voice and shape it in a way that has nothing to do with who you really are.
“I had to fight stereotypes and notions that people thought they had about what a Black woman from the South Side of Chicago should be,” Obama added. “I was labeled as angry and not an asset to my husband, all because I was using my voice.”
Construction of the facility started last year and will resume once the weather warms up some.
“When people drive by and see the sign on the field they will always remember her contribution and her husband’s contribution to our world,” Kenner added. “Whether you believed in their views or not, I think that they went about it as sincere as they possibly could as our president and our first lady. That is what I will always remember.”