Ed. note: The full version of this op-ed is posted at Education Week. Read the full version here.
As first lady, I've spent a lot of time talking with young people all across the country about education. I've heard about their hopes of going to college, getting good jobs, and one day starting families of their own. And I've also heard about the challenges they're facing—the rising costs of tuition, their overstretched school counselors, and the insecurities and fears that come along with being first-generation college students.
My message to these young people is that while all of us adults—teachers, administrators, and policymakers—have to do a better job of giving them the best schools and opportunities for their future, at the end of the day, they also need to step up and take responsibility for their education themselves.
That means going to class every day, setting their goals high, and working like crazy to achieve them. That's been the story of my life and my husband's life, so when I talk to these young people, my hope is that they see that our story can be their story, too—as long as they're willing to dedicate themselves to their education.
Early last month, I officially gave this effort a name and an aspiration—my Reach Higher initiative. And that's really the goal: to inspire young people to reach higher to complete their education beyond high school so that they can own their futures. We're focusing on things like financial aid, college counseling, academic and summer planning, and college visits. Our objective is to ensure that every student in this country understands how to pursue and complete their education, whether it's at a traditional four-year college or a community college, or via a professional certificate or degree.