Inspirational trip to the White House leaves Islington schoolgirls feeling special

Barack Obama shook hands with Islington schoolgirls at the White House last week.

The US President and David Cameron also spoke to pupils from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (EGA) secondary school at a ceremony to welcome the prime minister during his visit to Washington.

Twelve pupils and their headteacher from the Donegal Street school flew to America for a three-day visit on an invitation from Michelle Obama.

Besides attending the ceremony, the pupils’ packed schedule included a tour of the White House and a trip to the State Department.

Headteacher Jo Dibbs said: “It was one of the most inspirational things that they could ever have done and something that will get them through the rest of their lives.

“They all felt very special. Obama knew who they were and so did David Cameron.”

Students met ambassadors for a question-and-answer session and saw the daily press briefing.

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Hugs for all from the American first lady rounded off a discussion with her and Samantha Cameron on the importance of education.

Ms Dibbs said: “It was inspirational for me as well to meet women who give so generously of their time and support to young women.

“They are all committed to the same thing of making sure that young women make the most of their education and really believe in themselves.”

Pupil Jennifer Duong, 14, said of Mrs Obama: “She was quite inspirational before we met her, but when we met her it was even more inspirational.”

Hameedat Adedapo, 14, added: “She was amazing. I have seen her on TV talking, but actually talking to her was crazy.”

The youngest pupil, Shoobta Abanur, 13, said: “I felt really special. I’m young and it shows that you don’t have to be a certain age to become something.”

Pupils sampled a state banquet dessert in the White House dining room – a lemon sponge with New England apples and Huckleberry compote – just hours before it was served for real.

Tuesday morning saw pupils take part in a community service project at Martha’s Table Community Centre, where disadvantaged families are helped to become self-sufficient.

Mishat Tasnim, 14, said: “There was a girl there who couldn’t see but still wants to contribute to the community. You don’t have to be physically fit to do something for the community.”

Khadija Serwaah, 15, said: “We gained leadership skills and each and every single person gave advice, especially Michelle. She said that if you fail, it doesn’t matter, as long as you get up again. That’s most important.”

Mishat Tasnim, 14, said: “I wanted to become prime minister before I went but now I want to travel the world too and see how it’s hard for people to work and make a living, and bring that back to the UK and broadcast it.”

The group is planning a community project to help others after their trip.

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