By Ivette Sandoval
Whitney M. Young Magnet High School named its new athletic complex for alumna and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Last year, before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Obama had been touring the country to promote her memoir, Becoming, and one of the stops here in Chicago was her alma mater, Whitney Young. She visited the school on two occasions, the first to a larger crowd and the second to speak to 20 female students. Whitney Young’s principal, Joyce Kenner, took the latter opportunity to share the news with Obama that the school administrators would name their new athletic complex in her honor.
Michelle Obama’s sculpted arms were the envy of many when she was in the White House, and with her athletic build she motivated many to get fit, including children, through her “Let’s Move!” national fitness campaign to help fight childhood obesity. Even though Obama did not participate in any sports at Whitney Young, Kenner thought that, because fitness was such an important issue for Obama, naming the athletic complex for her would be a fitting tribute.
“After the conversation with the 20 young ladies, I told her that we would love to name our new athletic complex after her, and she just smiled,” said Kenner. “She seemed so humbled and so honored that we would even think about doing something like that.”
Construction of the athletic complex cost $4.3 million. The complex includes artificial turf baseball and football fields, a track, fencing, gates, bleachers, and new lighting and scoreboards. Kenner said the school’s football, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, and track and field teams will use the complex.
The athletic complex also will welcome the community to use its amenities.
“I think it’s great that this facility will be open to the community to use because I live just a few blocks away and have children that will benefit from having this much needed green space,” said Armando Chacon, real estate professional, West Loop resident, and president of the West Central Association.
He is excited about the new athletic complex, as he feels this was a “long overdue” project and a boost for Whiney Young’s sports teams.
“It’s more than fitting to be named after Michelle Obama since she is an alumna, and she’s not only adored by the community but is one of Whitney’s great success stories,” Chacon said.
Michelle Obama always loved fitness. “She is very physically fit, and prior to becoming first lady, she used to work out at the same gym as my husband, and he would tell me stories about her carrying kids up the stairs on her shoulders,” said Kenner, adding that motivating others to work out and eat a healthful diet was a priority to Obama when she was first lady.
Obama graduated from the school in 1981.
Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds were used to pay for the project, according to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.
For more information, call Whitney Young at (773) 534-7500.