WASHINGTON (AP) — The first lady established her White House mentoring program for girls first, then the president followed with his for boys. Now Michelle Obama says if she and her husband can mentor young people, corporate America can too.

“Our thought is that if the President and the First Lady can mentor, shoot, everybody has got a little time,” a smiling Michelle Obama told a National Mentoring Summit in the capital. She spoke of how mentoring raises the odds that young people will graduate and avoid drug use and violence.

In 2009, the first lady launched a mentoring program that paired young women from the Washington region with women in the Obama administration. The following year, President Barack Obama launched a yearlong mentoring effort that included programs for boys, including monthly workshops on career planning and community service.

“Once I did it, then he had to have his mentoring project,” Michelle Obama joked, earning laughs. “But that’s good. We’re encouraging all Americans.”

The first lady met Tuesday with students and mentors holding the daylong summit.

She also used the occasion of the summit at the Library of Congress that brought together the leaders of mentoring organizations and federal, state and civic leaders from across the country to announce the Corporate Mentoring Challenge. She called on corporate America to boost mentoring nationwide and let workers mentor students even for short periods during the work day.

A mentor who guides the way can make a big difference in many young lives, Obama said.

“Kids don’t need you to be Superman,” she added, encouraging more people to become mentors. “They just need you to be there.”

Deneen Borner, 15, of Chicago, introduced the first lady on stage and declared, “I am an example of how mentoring can completely change a life.”

Borner said she was struggling with peer pressure and “out-of-control anger” when she said she realized she needed mentoring to help her stay on track. Through a mentoring program, she learned to get along better at home and stay focused. She also looks forward to being mentored at a workplace where she will shadow workers on the job.

Mentoring has been one of the first lady’s favorite initiatives. In addition to mentoring programs involving White House staffers, she has hosted mentoring events around the country.

“People like all of you help me believe a child who grows up surrounded by doubt and fear and negativity can still feel loved and inspired and hopeful for their future,” Obama said. “And times like these also make me feel like we’re on our way to building a culture where no child ever feels like they’re on their own.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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