Chicago Teens Reflect on Lessons From Obama

They've heard similar advice before, but it's better coming from the president.

Posted: 06/18/2013 12:01 PM EDT

(Photo: Joyce Jones/BET)

In just the past few days, members of Hyde Park Academy's Becoming a Man program have experienced the extreme highs and lows of life. The Chicago teens' weekend began with a trip to the White House, where they had their second meeting this year with President Obama and joined him for an early Father's Day celebration.

"It was a wonderful experience being there and nice to see so much history in one house," BAM member Robert Scates told BET.com. "And I was flabbergasted that he took us to every part of the White House, including the Oval Office. A lot of people don't get the chance to go there, so for us to get to do that is a wonderful thing."

The group then returned home to a weekend filled with tragedy during which nine people were killed, including a 15-year-old boy. On Monday, several members were awarded high school diplomas. They hope the advice they've received from the president and BAM leaders will continue to sustain them as they witness the ongoing poverty and violence that plagues their neighborhoods.

During both of their visits with Obama, each of the young men was struck by how the president is just an "ordinary man," albeit with extraordinary power.

"He didn't act like he was more important. He made us feel like we were all equal and showed us the same respect we showed him," said Ronald McCormick, who turned 18 that day.

The most important advice they've received, each said, was to stay in school, stay focused and do what they have to do to become successful.

"The Obamas weren't always living the perfect life. So to hear about him starting at the bottom and end up at the top gives me more motivation," McCormick said. "I've heard the advice the president gave us before, but appreciate it coming from him."

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