First Lady Michelle Obama launched a mentoring program in early November, intended to inspire 10th- and 11th-grade girls from public and private schools in the Washington, Maryland, and Virginia area by giving them access and exposure to accomplished women of varying careers- including ladies on the White House staff. The participating students were chosen by their school principals as those who could most benefit from the program, according to the White House.
Earlier this month, the thirteen girls selected for the program joined the first lady and 18 White House staffers, including advisers Valerie Jarrett and Melody Barnes, in the State Dining Room to officially open the program, which Mrs. Obama stated, was one of her top priorities on becoming first lady.
“We thought, what can we do to make the White House different, to make kids in our own new neighborhood know that the White House is a place for them?” she said. Mrs. Obama explained that the program was started to let local kids “know that the President of the United States hears you, and values you, and cares about your growth and development.”
A number of actresses, Obama administration officials, and members of Congress, joined First Lady Michelle Obama in the first series of mentoring activities held in Denver, Colorado,which began with a luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion. Among those in attendance were Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson. Actresses who participated included Susan Sarandon, Alfre Woodard, Fran Drescher, and Karen Olivo. Other honored guests were Rep. Diana Degette, D-Colorado; Jeanne Ritter; Helen Thorpe, a freelance writer and wife of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper; Susan Daggett, an environmental consultant, and wife of Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado; and Maggie Fox, CEO of The Alliance for Climate Protection, and wife of Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado.
Although the permanent number of participants has not been decided, the White House said it is likely the program will include 20 students and 20 mentors. The group will meet formally at least once a month through August; mentors can check in more frequently. White House sources report that a similar program for boys will be launched soon.