INDIANAPOLIS -- Four Arsenal Tech High School students got a backstage pass to talk with former first lady Michelle Obama face-to-face when she spoke to thousands of women and girls in Indianapolis on Feb. 13
"Put the work in. I guess that's my advice to young people, put the work in and don't stop yourself before you even try," said the former first lady.
Tania, Madison, Roncresha and Jade were specially selected by leaders at Indianapolis Public Schools to meet Mrs. Obama because they are standout students in academics and leadership.
"Her title of first lady. It wasn't even there anymore. It was just like I'm talking to the person," said Tania Pliego Torres.
"She said you're going to get there. You're gonna make it. Just keep on doing what you're doing... because obviously since we were picked, we're doing something right," Jade Haywood.
The girls say they're determined to succeed, especially since Mrs. Obama encouraged each of them personally to pursue their education and goals, be confident and persistent, and use their voice.
"I like how she said to stay relevant to have a voice," said Madison McCullough
"Making sure you stay at the table and put in your own perspective, even if others don't agree to it, or don't take into account because I'm a woman, but still, like persevere," said Tania.
"But she told me the same thing back stage... it's our time, it's women's time, like we have to have our voice, we cannot settle for less," said Roncresha Lampkin.
Girls Inc is an organization on a mission to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold. They say some of the main issues young girls in Indiana face right now are self-confidence, social media, peer pressure and bullying. They're glad to see recent positive momentum but say we must build on that.
"We're seeing a movement with our girls... and so to fill them with that encouragement, that positivity, to let them know that they are important...that they matter," said Candice Lofton, Girls Inc. Program Support Coordinator.
Lofton says people should aim to be role models, mentors and motivate girls who feel defeated and hopeless.
"As adults we can first and foremost just be that example. So that's probably the greatest way that we can impact and influence... because as we know, our girls are watching us," said Lofton.
When asked about what they see as the top challenges among their peers?
"Self-esteem, confidence, and abuse - physical, mentally, everything," said Roncresha.
"We have to look perfect... we have to be perfect," said Jade.
The girls say Mrs. Obama inspired them to push past stereotypes, aim higher, stand together as women, and now, they're passing it on.
"I've been telling a lot of people, like a lot of women and young ladies, what she told us. You might have doubts about yourself, and so if you're like thinking that stuff, you're not going to get anywhere... just building each other up together," said Roncresha.
If you'd like to volunteer to help empower a young girl, here is a list of some of the local organizations dedicated to doing just that: