First lady, Emanuel ask for youth program money

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4-City-First_Lady_Harper_HS.jpgPrincipal Leonetta Sanders introduces First lady Michelle Obama to the students during her visit to Harper High School at Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood Wednesday April 10, 2013. The first lady stressed education, telling the students the best thing they could do in life “is really be serious about education.” She told them that if they stay focused they “can make it happen.” (AP Photo/Chicago Tribune, Nancy Stone, Pool)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and first lady Michelle Obama are urging business leaders to donate more money to help the city’s at-risk youth.

Emanuel asked the audience at an exclusive luncheon Wednesday in downtown Chicago for help raising $50 million. The mayor wants the private donations for a program he announced earlier this year called Get In Chicago. Two-thirds of that amount has been raised.

In an often emotional speech, the first lady told the audience that resources matter and the money they give to neighborhood youth programs can save children’s lives.

Just in case the message wasn’t clear, the audience sat down to a salmon lunch and a card asking for donations. The card had optional boxes to check for donation amounts from $1,000 to $1 million.

After the luncheon, the first lady visited Harper High School in the high poverty and crime Englewood community. Some in the area believe that her visit could have a positive impact and others contend the area’s gun violence would continue.

Carolyn Collins stood outside Harper High School on Wednesday afternoon as Obama talked with students inside. The 46-year-old woman said her daughter attends the school. Collins says she hopes the first lady’s visit will remind the rest of the country what local children go through.

Nearby 11-year-old Dejuan Cox wasn’t quite so hopeful. He said it was nice that the first lady visited, but he thinks the violence will continue. And 11-year-old Kiera Barden waited outside the school too. She said she came to see the first lady because she wrote a report on Obama. 

At least 29 current and former students of the school have been shot in the last year.

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