In the spotlight: Rolling Meadows High School student sits next to first lady Jill Biden at State of the Union address

The first lady called sophomore Kate Foley, 15, and invited the engineering student to sit in her box.

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07: (L-R) Kandice Barron, Kate Foley, first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff applaud as U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on February 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. The speech marks Biden’s first address to the new Republican-controlled House. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775925076

Kate Foley (left) stands beside first lady Jill Biden at Tuesday’s State of the Union address in the House chamber.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Kate Foley, a sophomore at Rolling Meadows High School, was a guest of first lady Jill Biden Tuesday night at President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address and given the honor of sitting beside her.

Kate was embraced by Biden when the first lady took her seat in the House gallery, overlooking the House of Representatives chamber.

Jill Biden phoned Kate last week to personally invite her in a call with the student and her mother, Dana, an eighth-grade English teacher at Carl Sandburg Junior High in Rolling Meadows.

The mother and daughter were sitting in a classroom at the high school when the first lady called and asked Kate, “Would you like to be my guest at the State of the Union?”

On Tuesday, Biden tweeted, “Thank you for taking my call, Kate! You light up the classroom when you talk about your dreams of becoming an engineer — I am honored to have you join me at the State of the Union tonight.”

The women told the first lady they had never been to Washington before. They were supposed to attend a reception at the White House before the president’s address in the House of Representatives.

Jill Biden met Kate, 15, from Arlington Heights, when she visited the school in the northwest suburbs Nov. 14, coming to the Chicago area with Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona for events to kick off National Apprenticeship Week and to highlight Biden White House career programs.

For years, and spanning various administrations, State of the Union guests in the first lady’s box in the House of Representatives have often been used to represent policies or causes.

Kate was selected to highlight the Biden administration’s programs providing high school students with training for careers through partnerships with employers and community colleges. Jill Biden was a longtime community college English teacher.

Kate, who takes engineering classes at Rolling Meadows, wants to be a biomedical engineer, was part of a roundtable with Jill Biden and others in November discussing the Career Pathways program at the school.

“Not everyone needs a four-year degree. It’s about jobs,” Kate said then.

During the Rolling Meadows visit, Cardona announced the launch of a new Biden administration initiative, Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success, bankrolled with $120 billion from the American Rescue Plan and intended to give students training for careers in high demand.

The Education Department said “the initiative blurs the lines between high school, college and the world of work, providing students with accelerated and innovative opportunities to earn college credits and gain real-world career exposure and experiences.”

The White House paid the travel expenses of the guests in the first lady’s box.

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