This week, 225 young women from around the U.S. and the world met in Washington, D.C., for the 4th annual Girl Up Foundation Leadership Summit. Gloria Samen '18 and Rocio Ortega '16 are both former Teen Advisors for the organization and played big roles in the summit—and both were chosen to meet First Lady Michelle Obama.

Samen and another former Teen Advisor served as emcee for the 3-day event. Chosen, she said, for her energetic and friendly personality, Samen was responsible for introducing speakers and for “rallying and energizing the participants” throughout the summit. “It was so inspiring me for me, to watch all of the participants,” she said. “I was invigorated by their energy and passion and hoped to return to them everything that they gave to me on that stage.”

Samen and Ortega, alongside a small group of other former Teen Advisors, were selected for a private meeting with Michelle Obama. Samen said, “When I met the First Lady, I said  'Hello, it is so nice to meet you..such an incredible honor,' [Obama responded,] ‘Thank you so much for all of your work advocating for girls all over the world.’ I...managed to muster a 'thank you' followed by something incoherent about how beautiful she was and how great her arms were.”

In addition to the small group meeting, Ortega was chosen to introduce Obama’s speech on Tuesday. “It was an honor,” Ortega said, “especially as a first generation Mexican-American and first generation college student coming from a low-income family...” Ortega said. “Michelle Obama, like the work we do at Girl Up, represents a voice for girls who want to go to school but face barriers because of where they live.”

A video of Michelle Obama’s remarks, which includes a brief portion of Ortega’s introduction, is available online.

Ortega continued, “Meeting [Michelle Obama] is a highlight in my career... I hugged her and thanked her for supporting Girl Up and for initiating Let Girls Learn [and] told her ‘my mother will be watching...’ [Obama] saw me dance backstage to shake off the nerves and, just as I was ready to go on stage she tells me ‘go make mom proud...’ and that meant the world to me!”

Ortega said she is eager to help build a Girl Up Boston coalition at Wellesley with Samen and other Girl Up leaders in the area.

Immediately following the summit, Samen led a lobby day group that headed to Capitol Hill to talk to representatives and senators about the Girls Count Act and the importance of prioritizing education for girl refugees. Next, Samen is off to Rwanda for three weeks to work at Girl Up’s inaugural STEAM camp (STEM plus Arts), which will feature a cross cultural exchange between 120 American and African girls. As a counselor, Samen will be facilitating the programming and leadership training.