Obama to address BTW's graduating class downtown - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Obama to address BTW's graduating class at Cook Convention Center

(WMC-TV) - Students at Booker T. Washington High School practiced for graduation Thursday, but it wasn't a typical practice for graduating seniors.

Members of the school's senior class said they were ecstatic about their big day and the upcoming visit from President Barack Obama.

"He's coming for us, to show this city some love," graduate Chris Dean said.

The graduates gathered in the school's auditorium Thursday morning to practice for the upcoming ceremony.

"The big part is making sure everybody knows how to dress and know what time to arrive," principal Alisha Kiner said.

Dean is ready. In the winning video in the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge Contest, he is seen crying during a segment that focuses on the Cleaborn Homes Housing Project, where 20 percent of BTW students' homes have been demolished.  

"I would say it was 10 percent acting and 90 percent real emotion, because I never lived in Cleaborn Homes, but I have several friends who actually live there, and I can feel their pain," he said.

It's a statistic BTW students aren't letting stand in the way of their success.  Dean says he too has been faced with a number of challenges in his own life.

"My dad, he got killed," Dean said. "I think I was four. He got shot lots of times."

However, Dean knows that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.

"It's not where you are or what your are.  It's who you are," he said.

Getting access to the ceremony won't be easy.  Only people with tickets will be allowed inside the ballroom to hear Obama's commencement address.  According to students, each graduate will receive five tickets and honor students will receive seven.

"As for my family tickets, I know how many people are coming, but some may have to change because they have to work on Monday because the day changed, but other than that, I have a pretty substantial amount of people coming to cheer," graduating student Alexis Wilson said.

According to Kiner, other details are being worked out by the Secret Service.

"What I've been given charge of are the kids and their families, and the Secret Service, I'm going to have to defer to them.  They'll have to determine all of the other logistics," she said.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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