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'Impossible odds': Michelle Obama meets students living amid Chicago gun crime

Chuck Kennedy / The White House

Michelle Obama talks with students from Harper High School at the White House on Wednesday.

First lady Michelle Obama met Wednesday with students from a Chicago high school where 29 current or former students had been shot in the past year, eight of them fatally.

She invited a group of students from the school to the White House after meeting them during a visit to Chicago, her hometown, in April.

The first lady has previously spoken powerfully about the effect of gun violence on children growing up in Chicago. In April, her voiced cracked as she talked about meeting with the classmates of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, the teenager shot and killed earlier this year.

Wednesday's meeting was closed to the media, but Obama discussed the children of W.R. Harper High School the day before, at a fundraising event that became highly publicized because of her confrontation with a gay-rights protester.

At that Tuesday event, Obama spoke of the heartache endured by the children at the school, which is in the violent South Side neighborhood of Englewood, which she called “one of the toughest in the city.”

Though the children were the school’s “best and brightest,” she said, “every single one of these young men and women raised their hand” when a school counselor asked who knew someone who had been shot.

“Every day, they face impossible odds: jobless parents addicted to drugs, friends and loved ones shot before their very eyes,” said Obama, who hails from the South Side.

In February, the school and its students were the subject of a two-day series of the popular public radio program “This American Life.”

Chicago Police Department crime statistics for the most recent period available showed that in the last week of May alone, the Englewood neighborhood had one first-degree murder, eight cases of aggravated assault and battery, 39 cases of simple assault and battery, 11 robberies, with four involving guns, a carjacking and seven weapons violations.

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