Dinah Clottey has long considered Michelle Obama to be an example of what is possible.
Growing up in south suburban Blue Island, just 12 miles from Obama’s South Shore childhood home, she saw the former first lady as a role model—one who inspired her to pursue a transformative education on the Hyde Park campus.
Having moved to the U.S. in 2007 amid a historic presidential race, Clottey’s first memory of the Obamas was hearing Black adults express doubts about their political future—doubts informed by their own experiences with racism and colorism. A little over a year later, when the Obamas stood poised outside the White House for the world to see, young Clottey was ecstatic.
“As a Black woman, and as a dark-skinned Black woman in particular, I’m just not used to seeing people like me on television or doing the types of things Michelle Obama has been able to do,” Clottey said. “It's because of her that I believed I could get into a good school like UChicago. It didn't matter that I’m Black or what resources I had. I knew I could still make it happen.”
This story was first published by The College.