Michelle Obama walked in the room and was met with shrieks of excitement.
The dance team from Whitney Young Magnet High School gasped, jumped up and down and doubled over at the sight of the school’s famous alumna.
Students on the school’s Guys & Dolls Dance Company were floored by the former first lady’s recent visit.
“I was just in shock for the whole time when she came in. It was a really surreal experience,” said sophomore Maiya Austen, 16.
The teens said Obama talked to them about insecurity and empowerment.
“She told us to believe in yourself even if others don’t,” said senior Kristin Reid, 17, who is applying to colleges. She said Obama told them that school counselor tried to discourage her from applying to Princeton. Obama applied anyway, and earned her undergraduate degree at the Ivy League school after graduating from Whitney Young in 1981.
“Michelle Obama is someone that I’ve looked up to my entire life,” said freshman Paige Prather, 15. “Nobody else who walked into the room could have given me the impact that she did.”
Obama, joined by Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, visited Whitney Young to promote her memoir, “Becoming.” The school also arranged for students to attend Obama’s book tour event in the city next Tuesday.
Teacher Jeanette Gordon has taught dance at Whitney Young for 15 years. Before Obama’s visit, Gordon had to meet with the Secret Service — though agents didn’t specify who was coming. Still, she understood it to be Obama.
She kept the Nov. 1 visit a secret because she believed the administration didn’t want people to know, and also because she wanted to surprise for her students.
“It was amazing,” she said. “They were crying, they were laughing, they were screaming. It was really something special.”
She hopes her students learned about making mistakes and lifting each other up from Obama’s visit.
Though Obama took dance classes at Whitney Young, Guys & Dolls didn’t exist yet, Gordon said. On the wall of Gordon’s classroom, there is a poster of Obama dancing; she signed it during her visit.