By Kimberly Willis Green
Antwarn Sanders and D’Ariel Myrick, seniors from Atlanta Public Schools’ (APS) historic Booker T. Washington High School, were featured in an education documentary taped March 9 with President Barack Obama. In the documentary, “A Roundtable with President Barack Obama: The Cost of Education,” the APS students join three students from Georgia Institute of Technology and Vice Media founder Shane Smith to discuss the challenges of paying for college, accumulating college debt, and enrolling in community college as an option for saving money towards their education.
The roundtable discussion was videotaped at Manuel’s Tavern by Vice Media immediately following President Obama’s speech at Georgia Tech. The president spoke to thousands of college students and Atlanta residents about college affordability and unveiled his “Student Aid Bill of Rights.” Vice Media followed the president’s entire visit to Atlanta as part of the media outlet’s documentary. Washington High School students had the opportunity to share their thoughts with President Obama about paying for college, the possibility of using student loans, and the difficulty of researching scholarships.
Sanders and Myrick are both dually enrolled in Washington High School’s Early College program and at Georgia State University. The students were recommended to participate in the roundtable discussion by their principal, Dr. Tasharah Wilson, and English/Language Arts instructional coach Dr. Danielle V. Oliver. The White House U.S. Department of Education contacted the principal to identify two students who were in the audience when first lady Michelle Obama spoke of her REACH Higher initiative with Education Secretary Arne Duncan during their Back-to-School tour stop at Washington High in September 2014.
Students were instructed not to tell anyone about their life-changing interview with the President until the documentary roundtable was posted to Vice News’ web site March 16.
“Having a roundtable conference with the President of the United States was a dream come true–President Barack Obama was just phenomenal in all aspects,” said Sanders. “He actually listened and answered all of the students’ questions as thoroughly as possible, and he went in depth with each conversation. Because of this, I easily engaged with everything he said.”
Sanders, a student-athlete, is a member of the National Honors Society, National Beta Club, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), and the African American Men Initiative. He also plays varsity basketball. He will graduate in the top 10 percent of his class with a 3.6 grade point average in May. As the only Posse Scholar recipient at Washington, Sanders plans to attend Texas A&M University to major in environmental design.
“My hands and legs would not stop shaking as I sat in one of six chairs around a rustic round table. I extended my hand and shook the hand of the first African American and 44th President of the United States,” said Myrick. “President Obama made his college affordability proposal sound plausible and realistic for the near future. He shared with us that he had only fully paid off his own student loans in 2004, so his passion and informative ideas made the discussion intriguing and enlightening.”
Myrick, who was recently selected as Washington High School’s salutatorian and STAR Student for the Class of 2015, is a member of the Academic Decathlon Team, recipient of the 2014 Alexander Hamilton Merit Award, and member of the National Society for Collegiate Scholars, National Honor Society, Beta Club. She will also graduate in the top 10 percent of her class and plans to attend either the University of Georgia, University of Miami, or Western Carolina University to major in English.