Reach Higher Summit

Two students attended the Reach Higher “Beating the Odds” Summit event in Washington D.C.
Katelyn Adams and Samantha Coffman at the Reach Higher Summit in Washington, D.C.

Pulaski County Students Meet
First Lady Michelle Obama

Washington D.C. -- On July 23, Katelyn Adams and Samantha Coffman joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House for the Reach Higher “Beating the Odds” Summit. The event celebrated the students’ accomplishments in overcoming adversity on their way to colleges across the country. Students heard words of encouragement and advice from the First Lady, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Google’s Chief Education Evangelist Jaime Casap, co-founder of 1vyG Manuel Contreras, musician Wale, a group of rising college sophomores that participated in last year’s Reach Higher Summit, and even President Barack Obama, who made a surprise appearance.


According to, “the Reach Higher initiative is the First Lady's effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university.”


“What I want to do through Reach Higher,” the First Lady said, “is to make sure that young people like you all own that future; that you don’t listen to the doubters, that you figure out how to make your own path, that you understand that hard work is the key to everything that you’re going to do, and that you make sure you finish your education past high school. Because that’s what it’s going to take.”


The students selected to participate in the event represented a wide range of diverse backgrounds including urban, rural, foster, homeless, special needs, and under-represented youth who have overcome challenges to continue their education.


Katelyn Adams, a recent graduate of Pulaski County High School, prefers to go by Kat. She is a first generation college student who will double major in Journalism and Gender Studies when she attends Berea College this fall. Samantha Coffman prefers to go by Sam and graduated from Southwestern High School. She has been accepted to the University of Kentucky and will major in Biology. Both Kat and Sam are members of Berea College Talent Search.


 “Seeing the group of young people was phenomenal, and hearing everyone's personal stories was amazing,” Kat said. “We all came from different places. We are all different in many ways. However, we have things in common: we are ambitious and determined!”


The panel guests gave advice to the group of students to help them make the transition from home to college. Manuel Contreras, co-founder of 1vyG and a senior at Brown University told students, “We can go off, get our education, come back to our communities, and work with our communities—all of our communities—to make a difference there.”


“I will never forget this experience,” said Sam. “I know I'll take the knowledge I've learned today and apply it to my life and the lives of others as well.”


To learn more about the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative, visit

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