CHICAGO Michelle Obama showed off her neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago to some NATO visitors on Sunday, taking five other first ladies to a youth center for lunch and for a musical performance by the children.
The women toured the Gary Komer Youth Center, which features a gymnasium, dance studio and a theater. The center provides tutoring, college preparation, training in culinary arts and horticulture for young people in the community, 90 percent of whom come from low-income households.
Obama, whose childhood home was about 1 mile from the center, led a tour that included Albanian first lady Liri Berisha, Croatian first lady Sanja Music Milanovic and Norwegian first lady Ingrid Schulerud.
"I brought them here because I am so proud of where I grew up, and I wanted to show everyone some of the wonderful things that are happening here on the South Side," Obama said before the South Shore Drill Team performed a routine to Frank Sinatra's "My Kind of Town."
Obama and Anne-Mette Rasmussen, wife of NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, clapped and danced to the gospel singing of the Soul Children of Chicago and also sampled a strawberry basil vinaigrette salad dressing made at the center.
Valerie Trierweiler, the domestic partner of French President Francois Hollande, and Turkish first lady Hayrunnisa Gul spoke with children on a rooftop garden about the heirloom tomatoes and cimmarron lettuce they were growing.
The center provides state-of-the-art facilities for children growing up in the neighborhood.
"I grew up just like you," Obama said to a group of black children. "Same background. My family didn't have a lot of money growing up. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college, and most of the folks in my neighborhood didn't get a chance to go, either."
Before she married Barack Obama, Michelle Robinson was such an excellent student that she was given a chance to attend the first "magnet" school for gifted teenagers in Chicago. She later graduated from Princeton with a sociology degree and from Harvard Law School.
The center visited by the first ladies was established in 2006 by the late Gary Comer, who helped found the clothing company Lands' End.
Comer's son, Guy, said on Sunday that 94 percent of the children helped there go on to graduate high school and gain acceptance to a four-year college or university.
The Obamas' home in Chicago is located roughly 3 miles north of the center.
(Reporting by Michael Hirtzer; Editing by Greg McCune and Eric Beech)