First lady praises two Philly high school grads for ‘beating the odds’

 First lady Michelle Obama gestures to musical artist Wale, (right), as Manuel Contreras, (center), looks on, during an East Room event to welcome more than 130 college-bound students from across the county to participate in the 2015 Beating the Odds Summit at the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 23, 2015. The summit is part of the first lady's Reach Higher initiative. (Cliff Owen/AP Photo)

First lady Michelle Obama gestures to musical artist Wale, (right), as Manuel Contreras, (center), looks on, during an East Room event to welcome more than 130 college-bound students from across the county to participate in the 2015 Beating the Odds Summit at the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 23, 2015. The summit is part of the first lady's Reach Higher initiative. (Cliff Owen/AP Photo)

Two North Philadelphia students were invited to the White House this week, where First Lady Michelle Obama hosted 130 students nationwide for her “Beating the Odds” summit.

As a part of her “Reach Higher” initiative, Mrs. Obama led a conversation that aimed to better prepare first generation college students from underprivileged communities for the university experience.

Recent Edison High School graduates Tiffany Rodriguez and Angela Flores were selected by the Obama administration to attend the summit.

Rodrigez moved to Philadelphia from Puerto Rico when she was 4 years old. She grew up as the oldest child in a single-parent Spanish-speaking household.

On her way to becoming valedictorian at Edison, she often acted as caretaker to her two younger sisters. Rodriguez says she was driven to achieve academically through seeing her mother struggle to provide for the family.

“I knew I had to go to college,” she said. “I knew I had to go to school and that’s just something I knew I had to do, and all the hard work paid off.”

During the day-long summit Thursday, the first lady stressed the importance of asking for help and overcoming failure.

“Roll up your sleeves. Don’t be afraid to work hard. And if you fail, then recover,” said Mrs. Obama. “Get over it. Get up. Figure out what went wrong and go back in.”

President Barack Obama surprised the students with an appearance of his own.

Rodriguez, who described the experience as “life changing,” will begin her freshman year at Temple University in the fall. She says the White House visit has given her a jolt of confidence in her pursuit of a degree in Biochemistry.

“It might be hard academically, but I can do it,” said Rodriguez. “If I went through so much so far, I can do college.”

Fellow Edison graduate Angela Flores attended the summit as well. In the fall, she’ll attend the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in hopes of becoming a pastry chef.

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