DETROIT (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama told more than 2,000 Detroit students they should commit to getting an education beyond high school and celebrate academics like many do sports during a speech Friday at the city's first college signing day.
The speech, part of her "Reach Higher" initiative, brought students from more than 40 Detroit high schools together. Obama told the young people that academic achievement should be recognized as much as athletic accomplishments.
"I want this to be bigger than the Super Bowl, bigger than the World Series, bigger than the playoffs," she said.
Her message resonated with 18-year-old Thomas Murry, who will be attending the University of Toledo in the fall. He said so much attention is given to sports and that he was grateful to be part of a celebration of education.
"I'm pretty glad that she came and gave us her words of wisdom," he said. "Even though it's going to be hard and everything, I feel like I can do it."
The college signing day was hosted by the Detroit College Access Network at Wayne State University. More than 600 such events were planned around the country.
The first lady's "Reach Higher" initiative started last year and she attended a similar event last spring in San Antonio to kick off the program.
She told the Detroit students that she and President Barack Obama enjoy sports signing days and appreciate the excitement surrounding them, but she said it's important to "put higher education front and center in this country."
"Getting into college is not the ultimate goal," she said. "The ultimate goal is to graduate and get that degree."
She praised the students for working hard through high school and getting into college. She also acknowledged some of the specific challenges they may have faced along the way.
"Many of you had to take long bus rides or walk dangerous streets just to get to school," she said to a burst of applause.
The first lady reassured them that they will have a broad support network once they go to college. She said they just need to reach out whenever they need help.
Moesha Matthews, 17, said it was great to receive encouragement from Obama. Matthews, who will be going to Eastern Michigan University, said college was a goal she set for herself and that she knows there is more for her to achieve beyond that.
Other speakers at the event included Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Dr. James T. Minor, Detroit Deputy Mayor Isaiah McKinnon, Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson, University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, and Grammy Award-winning singer Ciara.