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  • [applause]

  • Michelle Obama: What's going on?

  • [applause]

  • Michelle Obama: Thank you all so much.

  • [applause]

  • Michelle Obama: You guys, that's a command.

  • Rest yourselves.

  • [laughter]

  • Michelle Obama: We're almost at the end.

  • [laughter]

  • Michelle Obama: Hello everyone and, may I say

  • for the last time, officially, welcome to the

  • White House.

  • [applause]

  • Michelle Obama: Yes.

  • Well, we are beyond thrilled to have you all

  • here to celebrate the 2017 National School Counselor

  • of the Year as well as all of our State

  • Counselors of the year.

  • These are the fine women and a few good men --

  • [laughter]

  • -- one good man -- who are on this stage and they

  • represent schools from across this country.

  • And I want to start by thanking Terri [phonetic

  • sp.] for that wonderful introduction and her

  • right-on-the-spot remarks.

  • I'm going to say a lot more about Terri in a few

  • minutes, but first I want to take a moment to

  • acknowledge a few people who are here.

  • First, our outstanding Secretary of Education,

  • John King.

  • [applause]

  • As well as our former Education Secretary, Arnie

  • Duncan.

  • [applause]

  • I want to take this time to thank you both publicly

  • for your dedication and leadership and friendship.

  • We couldn't do this without the support of the

  • Department of Education

  • under both your leadership.

  • So, I'm grateful to you personally and am very

  • proud of all that you've done for this country.

  • I also want to acknowledge a few other special guests

  • we have in the audience.

  • We've got a pretty awesome crew.

  • [applause]

  • Or as one of my staff said,

  • "You roll pretty deep."

  • [laughter]

  • I'm like, "Well, yeah, we have a few good friends."

  • We have with us today Ted Allen, Lala Anthony,

  • Connie Britton, Andy Cohen -- yeah,

  • Andy Cohen is here --

  • [cheers]

  • Carla Hall, Coach Jim Harbaugh and his beautiful

  • wife who's a lot better looking than him.

  • [laughter]

  • Lana Parrilla, my buddy Jay Pharaoh, Kelly Roland,

  • Usher --

  • [cheers]

  • Keep it down.

  • [laughter]

  • Keep it together, ladies.

  • [laughter]

  • Wale is here, and of course Allison Williams

  • and her mom are here.

  • All these folks are here because they're using

  • their star power to inspire our young people

  • and I'm so grateful to all of your for stepping up in

  • so many ways on so many occasions.

  • I feel like I've pestered you over these years --

  • [laughter]

  • -- asking time and time again, "Well where are you

  • going to be?

  • I'm going to be in New York.

  • Can you come?

  • Can you come here?

  • Can you do this?

  • Can you take that?

  • Can you ask for that?

  • Can you come?

  • Can we rap?

  • Can we sing?

  • [laughter]

  • So, thank you all so much.

  • It really means the world to this initiative to have

  • such powerful, respected, and admired individuals

  • speaking on behalf of this issue.

  • So, congratulations on the work that you've done and

  • we're going to keep working.

  • And today I especially want to recognize all the

  • extraordinary leadership team that was behind

  • "Reach Higher" from day one.

  • And this isn't in the script, so they

  • don't know this.

  • I want to take time to personally acknowledge a

  • Executive Director Eric Waldo --

  • [applause]

  • Where's Eric?

  • You've got to step out.

  • [applause]

  • Eric's acting like he's a ham, but he likes the

  • spotlight.

  • He's acting a little shy.

  • [laughter]

  • I want to recognize our Deputy Director,

  • Stephanie Sprow.

  • [applause]

  • Stephanie, Stephanie.

  • Right there.

  • [applause]

  • And he's really not going to like this because he

  • tries to pretend like he doesn't exist at all, but

  • our senior advisor Greg Darnieder.

  • [applause]

  • There you go.

  • [applause]

  • Greg has been a leader in education his entire life.

  • [applause]

  • I've known him since I was a little organizer person ---

  • [laughter]

  • -- and it's been just a joy to work with you all.

  • These individuals -- they are brilliant, they are

  • creative, they have worked miracles with hardly any

  • staff or budget to speak of, which is how we roll

  • in the First Lady's office.

  • [laughter]

  • And I am so proud and so grateful to you all for

  • everything that you've done so let's give them a

  • round of applause.

  • [applause]

  • And finally, I want to recognize all of you who

  • are here in this audience.

  • Our educators, our leaders, our young people

  • who have been with us since we launched "Reach

  • Higher" back in 2014.

  • Now, when we first came up with this idea we had one

  • clear goal in mind.

  • We wanted to make higher education cool.

  • We wanted to change the conversation around what

  • it means and what it takes to be a success in this

  • country because, let's be honest, if we're always

  • shining the spotlight on professional athletes or

  • recording artists or Hollywood celebrities --

  • if those are the only achievements we celebrate,

  • then why would we ever think kids would see

  • college as a priority?

  • So, we decided to flip the script and shine a big,

  • bright spotlight on all things educational.

  • For example, we made college signing day a

  • national event.

  • We wanted to mimic all that drama and excitement

  • traditionally reserved for those few amazing football

  • and basketball players choosing their college and

  • university teams.

  • We wanted to focus that same energy and attention

  • on kids going to college because of their academic

  • achievements because as a nation, that is where the

  • spotlight should also be -- on kids who work hard

  • in school and do the right thing when no one is

  • watching -- many beating daunting odds.

  • Next, we launched "Better Make Room."

  • It's a social media campaign to give young

  • people the support and inspiration they need to

  • actually complete higher education.

  • And to really drive that message home you may

  • recall that I debuted my music career --

  • [laughter]

  • -- rapping with Jay about getting some knowledge by

  • going to college.

  • [applause]

  • We are also very proud of all that this

  • administration has done to make higher education more

  • affordable.

  • We doubled investments in Pell grants and college

  • tax credits.

  • We expanded income-based loan repayment options for

  • tens of millions of students.

  • We made it easier to apply for financial aid.

  • We created a college scorecard to help students

  • make good decisions about higher education and we

  • provided new funding and support for school

  • counselors.

  • All together --

  • [applause]

  • Yes.

  • Audience member: Yay, thank you.

  • Michelle Obama: You're welcome.

  • [applause]

  • All together we made, in this administration, the

  • largest investment in higher education since the

  • GI bill.

  • [applause]

  • And today, the high school graduation rate is at a

  • record high and more young people than ever before

  • are going to college.

  • And we know that school counselors like all of the

  • folks standing with me on this stage have played a

  • critical role in helping us get there.

  • In fact, a recent study showed that students who

  • met with a school counselor to talk about

  • financial aid or college were three times more

  • likely to attend college and they were nearly seven

  • times more likely to apply for financial aid.

  • So our school counselors are truly among the heroes

  • of the "Reach Higher" story.

  • And that's why we created this event two years

  • about, because we thought that they should finally

  • get some recognition.

  • [applause]

  • We wanted everyone to know about the difference that

  • these phenomenal men and women have been making in

  • the lives of our young people every day.

  • And our 2017 School Counselor of the Year,

  • Terri Tchorzynski, is a perfect example.

  • As you heard, Terri works at the Calhoun Area Career

  • Center, a career and technical education school

  • in Michigan, and here's what Terri's principal

  • said about her in his letter of recommendation.

  • He said, "Once she identifies a systemic need

  • she works tirelessly to address it."

  • So, when students at Terri's school reported

  • feeling unprepared to apply for higher

  • education, Terri sprang into action to create a

  • school-wide, top-to-bottom college readiness effort.

  • Under Terri's leadership, more students than ever

  • before attended workshops on resume writing, FAFSA

  • completion -- yes, I can now say FAFSA

  • [laughter]

  • Michelle Obama: -- and interview preparation.

  • I can barely say it.

  • [laughter]

  • Michelle Obama: They did career and

  • personality assessments.

  • They helped plan a special college week, and they

  • organized a military day hosting recruiters from

  • all branches of our armed forces.

  • And because of these efforts today, 75 percent

  • of Calhoun's seniors now complete key college

  • application steps, and Terri's school has won

  • state and national recognition.

  • And all of this is just one small part of what

  • Terri does for his students each day.

  • I can go on and on about all the time she spends

  • one on one with students helping them figure out

  • their life path.

  • Terri told us, as you've heard, she told us about

  • one of those students, so we reached out to Kira

  • [phonetic sp.], and here's what Kira had to say in

  • her own words.

  • Kira wrote that "Mrs.

  • Tchorzynski has helped me grow to love myself.

  • She helped me with my doubts and insecurities."

  • She said, "My life has changed for the better in

  • all aspects." Kira said, "She held my hand through

  • my hardest times." She said, "Mrs.

  • Tchorzynski is my lifesaver." That's what

  • Kira said.

  • [laughter]

  • Michelle Obama: And this is what each of

  • you do every single day.

  • You see the promise in each of your students.

  • You believe in them even when they can't believe in

  • themselves, and you work tirelessly to help them be