It all started in my hometown of Memphis, TN, when my high school won the 2011 White House Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. Booker T. Washington High School, located in a neighborhood where the majority of residents live below the poverty line, had beaten the odds and raised its graduation rate from 55 to 82 percent in the span of three years. As the student selected to introduce President Obama at our graduation ceremony, I had the opportunity to speak to a nationwide audience about the profound impact that this President has had on me and my community.
When I first heard about President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which helps to ensure that young people in communities across the country can reach their full potential, I thought about the President’s remarks at my high school graduation when he reminded us that, “it's not where you are or what you are -- it’s who you are.” This is a belief that I often rely on to inspire myself and others.
Backstage prior to his remarks, the President urged our graduating class to continue serving as role models in our community. He also took the time to straighten my tie. His encouraging words and kind gesture not only reassured me that I would do well as his introducer, but convinced me that nothing I strive to do is impossible.
This summer I had the distinct honor to see the President in person again -- this time as a White House intern. As a member of the Office of Management and Administration team, I enjoyed working with genuine, amazing people who work hard each day to serve the President of the United States and the American people.
During my internship, I also had a chance to participate on a panel coordinated by the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to celebrate the power of storytelling, poetry and the arts in building awareness and inspiring change. During the panel, I discussed my experiences in helping to write and co-produce an Emmy-nominated film called "As I Am" about the strength, beauty and struggles often experienced by those growing up in South Memphis.
I am currently finishing up my last semester at Lane College. As the first person in my family to pursue a higher education, I am very grateful for the President’s leadership on increasing graduation rates and making colleges more affordable and accessible.
Overall, my experiences with the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and as a White House intern have helped me to maintain a positive outlook on life and instilled in me a strong sense of responsibility to continually grow. If you would like to learn more about the White House Internship Program, visit obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/interns.
Christopher Lee is a former White House intern.