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Archived: Michelle Obama Surprises D.C. High School Students

Former First Lady Michelle Obama surprised a group of 14 students in Southeast Washington with a visit last week.

At Ballou STAY, an alternative high school, the students were told Antwan Wilson, the new chancellor of D.C. public schools, would be their special guest Tuesday. However, Obama walked into the classroom instead and spoke with students for two hours.

Her office said it was her first semi-official outing since leaving the White House in January, according to the Associated Press. Obama is continuing her practice of dropping in unannounced at local schools. As first lady she launched “Reach Higher,” an initiative that encouraged students to pursue education.

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“Mrs. Obama had an emotional and heartfelt discussion with the students,”Caroline Adler Morales, a spokeswoman for the former first lady, said in an email to the Washington Post. “There were tears, laughs and lots of hugs.”

Ballou STAY principal Cara Fuller, who found out about the visit an hour prior, said she thinks Obama wanted to speak to students who are “typically counted out.”

“I think she really just wanted a school and a group of students who are typically counted out to know that they themselves are amazing and wonderful and have the talents that they need to be successful,” Fuller told the Post.

Obama talked about the importance of education, following dreams and her husband’s presidency. She also heard the concerns of students regarding the rhetoric of President Donald Trump.

“They just asked what her thoughts were on the current president and they were deeply concerned about the rhetoric that has been going around,” Fuller said.

Ballou STAY’s mission is to “deliver a high-quality academic and career/technical program that will lead to a high school diploma or vocational certificate.”

In the 2015-16 school year, the enrollment was just under 500 students. Fifty-one percent of students were ages 18-24; 30 percent, age 30 and older; 10 percent, ages 25-29; and 9 percent, age 17 or younger. The student population is predominantly Black.

Obama talked about her visit to the school in an Instagram post:

Ballou STAY posted on Facebook:What an amazing day it was at Ballou STAY! @michelleobama dropped by and brightens everyone’s day!

“Once she came in, it was an inspirational feeling,” Alliyah Williams, 18, said in an interview. “She was so sweet and warm. She was like a mom.”

Life After the White House

Obama and her husband, former President Barack Obama, are living in Washington while Sasha, their 15-year-old daughter, completes high school.

It was announced last week that there would be two forthcoming books by the Obamas, with one volume to be written by the former president and the other by the former first lady. The couple plan to donate a “significant portion of their author proceeds to charity,” including the Obama Foundation, the publisher said in a statement.

The deal followed a heated auction for global rights to the two books with bidding that reached more than $60 million, a record sum for U.S. presidential memoirs, the Financial Times reported, citing people with knowledge of the sales process.

Obama will also participate in paid speaking engagements and continue charitable works. During her time as first lady, Obama, along with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the former vice president, spearheaded the Joining Forces initiative, which supports military personnel, military families and veterans.

In an interview with PEOPLE magazine, former President George W. Bush said he and his wife Laura hope to work with the Obamas on this initiative. Bush also talked about his fondness for Michelle Obama. He said, “We just took to each other.”

“She kind of likes my sense of humor. Anybody who likes my sense of humor, I immediately like,” Bush said.

As her post-White House agenda increases, one activity the former first lady will not be doing is joining a dance competition. Obama turned down an offer to appear on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” according to the Washington Post. The dance competition, which matches professional dancers with amateur dancers, asked both Obama and Hillary Clinton, who also refused the offer.

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