Former first lady Michelle Obama, celebrities and athletes celebrated College Signing Day with 10,000 high school and transfer students

Ten thousand college-bound high school and transfer students greeted former first lady Michelle Obama with cheers of excitement as she took the stage during this year’s College Signing Day event, co-hosted by the University of California and Reach Higher. Celebrities such as Conan O’Brien and John Legend joined Mrs. Obama at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion to celebrate the pursuit of higher education.

Mrs. Obama, speaking to the packed pavilion, shared, “I want you all to know, you are about to make the best investment you can possibly make ... In order to be here today, you kept on reaching higher for yourselves and for your future. You told all those doubters that they’d better make room. That is what this is all about, making people make room for you where you belong.”

UC President Janet Napolitano helped kick off the festivities with her opening remarks: “Maybe it’s a little cheesy to say this, but it’s true. A college education will not only change your life — it will give you the power to change the world.” Celebrities, athletes and performers shared similar sentiments about how college changed their lives and shaped their futures.

You can download footage of today’s event for publication or broadcast here. The footage includes comments from Mrs. Obama, John Legend and others, as well as music by a cappella singing group Pentatonix. Please give credit to “UCLA Newsroom.”

About the event: Reach Higher, the college access and success initiative launched by Mrs. Obama during her time at the White House, has hosted College Signing Day events since 2015. College Signing Day is a national celebration of all high school seniors and transfer students, especially those from low-income, underrepresented, and first-generation college-going backgrounds who have committed to pursuing higher education — whether at a community college, a four-year college or university, a professional training program, or by joining the military.

The high-energy celebration with Mrs. Obama featured celebrities, athletes and other performers, who came to recognize students’ academic achievements and to offer encouragement and guidance on how to make the most of their future educational opportunities. UC’s eight other undergraduate campuses held simultaneous celebrations for students in their respective regions and livestreamed the UCLA event.

About the University of California: The University of California is comprised of 10 campuses, five medical centers and three nationally affiliated laboratories. More than 280,000 students attend UC.

  • UC educates more first-generation students than other institutions of its caliber: 41 percent are first-generation college students.
  • Nearly half of UC first-generation students are African American, Latino/Chicano, or American Indian, and 39 percent speak English as a second language.
  • The university offers one of the nation’s strongest financial aid programs, awarding $1.64 billion in university financial aid to students.
  • Fifty-seven percent of California undergraduates at UC have their tuition fully covered, and UC students graduate with nearly $10,000 less than the national average in student loan debt.
  • UC also plays a role in the education of millions of California’s K-12 students through an extensive K-12 outreach effort and partnerships with over 1,400 schools across the state.
  • Seventy percent of participants in UC’s K-12 educational outreach go on to college.