Barack Obama Pays Surprise Visit to His Youth Job Corps Interns

A group of high school graduates participating in the Obama Youth Jobs Corps got the surprise of a lifetime on Tuesday when former president Barack Obama dropped in on them during a visit to the Obama Foundation.

The young men and women, about twelve in number, are interns at Urban Alliance, a national nonprofit youth development organization in partnership with the Obama Foundation to provide workforce-readiness training to youths.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the teenage interns were at the Chicago offices of the foundation to meet with Chief Engagement Officer Michael Strautmanis but had no idea they were in for a treat.

A video posted to Twitter by Urban Alliance captured the shock on the teenager’s faces as Obama walked into the room. The former POTUS went around the room, hugging and shaking hands with the participants before sitting with them.
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Fall is in the air. 🍂

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Obama touched on the importance of the Youth Jobs Corps program and the participants’ responsibility to contribute to their communities afterward.

“Part of the goal of this program is to expose you to what’s possible. Also to make sure that you recognize that even as you succeed, the communities from which you come are going to need you to be active and involved and engaged and focused.”

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“My friends and I started a program to mentor students at the elementary school next door. We helped each other keep the good work going. When I got to Howard I hit the ground running—joining student organizations, getting an internship at the White House during the Obama administration, and becoming a mentee as part of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, where I had the chance to meet President Obama, ask him for advice, and share what was going on in my life. “Since beginning my mentorship program five years ago, I’ve found a passion for combating disparities and inequalities I see. My mission is to change the world one community at a time. I recently founded my own nonprofit to help out other college students, providing scholarships and highlighting the achievement and impact of minority students across the U.S. ” —Jerron Hawkins, 21, participant at #MBKRising, Washington D.C. (2/3)

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“Because all of us, as citizens and generally, have an obligation to make sure that we’re tending to the city we live in,” he added, per the Sun-Times.

Obama, 57, also offered some much-needed encouragement, describing the youths as “role models” and letting them know they are “focused in a way that I can’t say I necessarily was when I was your age. So you guys are already ahead of the game.”


In a follow-up video, the interns described their reactions at seeing the 44th president of the United States walk into the room.

“When President Obama walked into the room, it was just pure shock and joy,” recalled Adarah Hale. “The Obama Youth Jobs Corps has done more than prepare me for the workforce. It has prepared me for my life.”

“I was trying my hardest to not cry,” added Miaa Cheeks.

A third intern, Dajuan Allen-Johnson, revealed the impact Obama’s visit and words had on him:

“A lot of times, people like me don’t hear ‘I’m proud of you’ and ‘I care about you’ a lot. Knowing that President Obama does care lets me know that I’m doing the right thing and that I’m where I need to be.”

The Obama Youth Jobs Corps was established last year and, “through workforce readiness training and early, meaningful work experience,” aims to “increase access to economic opportunity for high school students in some of the most underserved communities in Chicago.”

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