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By: Katie Gragnaniello, Manager, Partner Communications

Last week, Jim Larimore, Amy Nicknish, and I had the opportunity to sit with Former First Lady Michelle Obama at the Beating the Odds Summit in Washington, D.C., as she offered encouragement and inspiration to local, first-generation college students preparing for their first year of college.

The Former First Lady shared her personal experiences and struggles as a first-generation college student and told stories of her time at Princeton University. She put the star-struck students at ease by inviting them to ask her questions about their fears about college and the next chapter in their lives. Mrs. Obama related to all their fears and drew on personal experiences to answer their questions and reassure them. She offered great advice, like encouraging the students to get involved on campus and find a support network. She urged them not to sit in their dorm room alone but to get involved on campus. Mrs. Obama expressed to the students that they will be challenged on campus, but to work hard to prove people wrong because hard work pays back. “This isn’t supposed to be easy. So, if it’s not easy, you’re still okay – you’re right on track.”

Mrs. Obama, along with executives from Spotify like Danielle Lee and Troy Carter shared their personal experiences about their paths to success. They inspired students with stories of their failures, successes, words of wisdom, and personal journeys to the top. Not only did the students get to learn from the panel of executives, they received a new laptop computer and all the necessities they will need for their dorm rooms from Walmart. And to end an exciting and motivating day, Spotify sponsored a concert by local artist Kevin Ross.

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The Beating the Odds Summit is part of Mrs. Obama’s Better Make Room college access campaign, which ACT Center for Equity in Learning supports. ACT Center for Equity in Learning was thrilled to be part of this day-long event to inspire and encourage first-generation students. We wish all the students who participated (and everyone who is off to college in the fall) the best of luck on the next chapter of their lives.