Michelle Obama Speaks to Students at 5th Annual Beating the Odds Summit

Reach Higher hosted the fifth annual Beating the Odds Summit Tuesday to support first-generation college-bound students.

“No matter how much you may front, there is a part of you that is wondering whether this was a mistake and whether I belong and whether I can do this. Can I go on this campus or start this program? Am I really worthy of it? Those were the messages I had going on in my head and they still come up in life,” former First Lady Michelle said.

“…But here’s my one big message. This is not a mistake. You are here because you are more than capable of doing it.”

Beating the Odds was first celebrated in 2014 at the White House and has continued each summer.

The 2019 event took place at Howard University in Washington, DC, with more than 50 first-generation college students selected by local nonprofits. Obama was joined by Wes Moore from the Robin Hood Foundation, Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, and first-generation college students Ariel Ventura-Lazo and Rachel Scott.

The day-long panel event focused on strategies students can use to succeed in college. Everything from mental health to higher education terminology was touched on.

All of the panelists focused on the strength and resilience each student would need to tap into to get through the transition to college.

“If you quit, start again. If you find that you just can’t make it through, okay, that’s fine. Take a step back, breathe a little bit, and get back up,” Obama told the students.

“You have to tell yourself that you can’t spend your life quitting. You cannot spend your life quitting things that are hard. You’ve got to practice the hard and this [college] is the first big ‘practicing hard,’ and you’ll be able to do it.”

Download the Beating the Odds Summit toolkit.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s senior communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at adobson@nacacnet.org.

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