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*-- Michelle Obama honors slain teen, urges for less gun violence in commencement address --*

CHICAGO (UPI) - First lady Michelle Obama gave an emotional commencement address to Martin Luther King College Preparatory High School in Chicago, saying she understood the plight of the students in the surrounding community.

Obama, who grew up near the school in Chicago's South Side, a notoriously crime ridden area, encouraged the students Tuesday night to move past the difficulties they face and move past the stereotypes of their neighborhoods.

"I'm here tonight because I want people across this country to know that story, the real story of the South Side - the story of that quiet majority of good folks, families like mine and young people like you who face real challenges, but make good choices every single day," she said.

"I know the struggles many of you face: how you walk the long way home to avoid the gangs; how you fight to concentrate on your homework when there's too much noise at home; how you keep it together when your family's having a hard time making ends meet. But more importantly, I also know the strengths of this community. Most families here are tight, bound together by the kind of love that gets stronger when it's tested," she added.

Obama's address to King College Prep was one of a handful she gave this season. The First Lady also came here to honor Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old student who was fatally shot on the way home from school two years ago. Pendleton was killed just days after she marched in Obama's inaugural parade. Her death struck a nerve with the First Lady and President Obama.

"If Hadiya's friends and family could survive their heartbreak and pain, if they could found organizations to honor her unfulfilled dreams, if they could inspire folks across this country to wear orange to protest gun violence, then I know you all can live your life with the same determination and joy that Hadiya lived her life," Obama told them. "I know you all can dig deep and keep on fighting to fulfill your own dreams."


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