“Can everybody give Che’ a big round applause”? said President Barack Obama, to a crowd of more than 700 citizens who gathered at McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, Thursday, Jan. 14, for a town hall meeting.
Che’Dra Joseph, the daughter of Jessica Bornholdt and granddaughter of Mary E. Joseph, welcomed the crowd to McKinley
and introduced the president.
“We could not be more proud of her. I was backstage; I asked her, ‘Are you nervous?’ She said, ‘No, I got this. I’m fine.’ That is a serious leader of the future. And we are so proud of her,” said President Obama.
So, what did this Student of the Year with a remarkable 4.6 grade point average tell the world as she introduced the President?
Good morning, McKinley alumni, students, faculty, town hall participants, esteemed guests, and viewers at home. I am Che’dra Joseph, McKinley High School’s 2015-2016 Student of the Year and a finalist for East Baton Rouge Parish Student of the Year. Neither my experiences nor my environment have always been conducive towards forming a foundation for my ambitions. My upbringing has given me the insight that hardships do not limit
opportunities. A journey towards self-actualization is not as easy for all of us, as it is for some. It is challenging for marginalized Americans to succeed. However, remaining focused
on ambitions and education allows opportunities for moments of surrealism, similar to this one. I am here, in spite of, not because of, my circumstances. I have defied statistics, and I will not falter in my aspirations to dismantle the glass ceilings
imposed on women, people of color, and minority groups. McKinley has been a significant factor in my personal development due to its ever-present, but often unacknowledged historical value. In 1907, McKinley became the first institution in Louisiana to offer
Black students academic advancement. Furthermore, its first graduating class of 1916 was all female. McKinley was a win
for Black excellence, and a win for women. Today, McKinley is home to educational opportunities that allow for a progressive,
inclusive environment that stimulates informative and insightful dialogue among people who exhibit diversity in everything from skin color, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and religion. I am honored for the opportunity to introduce myself and the President. As a representative of McKinley High School,
Baton Rouge, and Louisiana, I offer the President our gratitude for giving America a nontraditional model of success that proves
adversity does not restrict opportunity and for choosing McKinley High School to make history. Ladies and gentleman, McKinley High
School proudly welcomes, The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
The gym erupted with applause.