I'm a 19-year-old studying at Duke University. I'm the same age that my mom was when she made the sacrifice to drop out of college to care for me and my siblings, so that we could have a shot at a better life than she had.
I was born to an alcoholic father and a teenage mother in a rough neighborhood in South Carolina. Growing up in our three-bedroom trailer, I knew that success wasn’t going to come easy for me.
But I had the support of my mom and stepdad, who both worked over 60 hours a week in their manufacturing jobs to save for our education. During the summers while they were at work, they took us to read books at the public library, instilling in us a love for learning.
I also had the encouragement of my elementary school teachers, who looked past the color of my skin and endured my "problem child" attitude because they saw that I had potential and could excel in our school's gifted programs. And when it came time to apply to college, I had high school teachers who encouraged me to reach for my dream schools.
For me and so many students like me, graduating from high school is a full-circle moment. It’s a manifestation of the unflinching sacrifice that my parents made to get me there. And it’s an affirmation of the American idea that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can build a future better than the conditions you were born into.
That’s why I’m proud to help announce that, under President Obama, more students are graduating high school than ever before -- reaching a record new high of 83 percent.
The truth is, my generation has seen things steadily get better the last eight years. Under President Obama, the graduation rate has gone up for all types of students, and the graduation gap is closing for students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities. College is more accessible for so many thanks to increased Pell Grants and easier ways to apply for federal financial aid through FAFSA. With the help of financial aid, I’m able to study at a top-tier school without worrying about its costs.
I know that it’s only through the promise of education that my story is possible. That’s why I plan to devote my career to public service so I can work to keep improving our education system. And that’s why I'm so proud to have a president who believes that if we work together, we can ensure that same promise for every kid, no matter who they are or where they come from.
So I hope you’ll join in celebrating all the progress we’ve made for students like me by tuning in to President Obama’s remarks today at 11:25 am ET.
Thanks for listening,