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First lady's new education platform aims for celebrity treatment of Generation Z students

"This is exactly what this technology was meant to do, the good stuff," Michelle Obama said at the White House Monday.

By
Doug G. Ware
Students from Duke Ellington High School in Washington, D.C., completed a Better Make Room chalk mural to reflect the announcement of the new public educational campaign by first lady Michelle Obama -- which is part of her Reach Higher initiative, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. The campaign targets Generation Z, or young people 14-19 years old, to celebrate education beyond high school using traditional and new media platforms. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Students from Duke Ellington High School in Washington, D.C., completed a "Better Make Room" chalk mural to reflect the announcement of the new public educational campaign by first lady Michelle Obama -- which is part of her Reach Higher initiative, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. The campaign targets Generation Z, or young people 14-19 years old, to celebrate education beyond high school using traditional and new media platforms. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- First lady Michelle Obama on Monday announced a broad new educational platform designed to spur innovation among the nation's youth, and she is calling on numerous media partners to help ensure the program's success.

Obama's program, called 'Better Make Room,' seeks to use television and web media -- two influential platforms among 14-to-19-year-olds -- to encourage vision and inspiration in mapping out success for U.S. teenagers.

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"This is an amazing new campaign to empower young people to own their education and fulfill their dreams," she told a crowd of youngsters at the White House event Monday. "Whether you're a Viner, a YouTuber, an educator, or a business or foundation leader, you all will be the ones driving this campaign forward long after the President and I have left the White House."

The centerpiece of the new campaign is a centralized social media presence for striving young students, who can share their personal stories and dreams while taking inspiration from the words and actions of others. The website BetterMakeRoom.org -- the drive's official site -- compiles the social media elements, in a format similar to Pinterest, to collectively encourage users to reach their goals.

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"Young people can go to BetterMakeRoom.org, or they can go to Vine, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #BetterMakeRoom ... And they can share their goals for college and for life with kids all across this country," she added. "This is exactly what this technology was meant to do, the good stuff -- to use it to share and inspire.

"We want to make room for their stories, for their dreams, their achievements. Because the truth is that right now, that space really doesn't exist in our popular culture."

A number of companies have partnered to help push the campaign forward. Some of them -- including NBCUniversal, the CW Network, Funny or Die, Vine and College Humor -- will promote the program with public service announcements and other specialized content.

Obama said the program aims to celebrate the personal dreams and accomplishments of young students, much the same way the lives of celebrities and athletes are glorified in the media.

"It's about valuing success in the classroom instead of just on the big screen or on the basketball court," she said. "It's about turning the culture of celebrity upside down so that we don't just have kids worshipping celebrities, but we also have celebrities honoring kids who are working hard and achieving their goals."

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"The truth is, Generation Z -- that's what they're called, these are the kids who are right now in high school and middle school -- they interact with the world in fundamentally different ways than generations before them," Obama added. "And I'm someone who lives with two Generation Z-ers, and I'm experiencing this firsthand."

The 'Better Make Room' campaign is part of the first lady's Reach Higher initiative, which seeks to inspire today's youth to continue their educations beyond high school.

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