NATO staffers in Chicago ahead of May summit

March 26, 2012 4:18:38 PM PDT
A delegation of representatives from NATO is in Chicago for a reconnaissance mission. They are checking out the city in advance of the NATO summit that will take place in May.

The next eight weeks are crucial for planning. There are the complex and pressing global issues to be addressed, the logistics, and the cultural events outside of the summit.

Organizers expect to share Chicago's neighborhoods with the visiting dignitaries. One group is already planning a trip to the South Side per an invitation from Mrs. Obama. The Gary Comer Youth Center sees nearly 400 students each day. In May, the center will also host an international delegation headed by the first lady of the United States.

"I'm really excited because she does a lot of good things with children, and since she came from the South Side she gets to see what we do," said Comer student Mariah Duncan.

Michelle Obama will have a lunch at the center for the spouses of NATO members and partners during the summit. No doubt, the special summit event will include some food prepared by students in the center's culinary program and produce grow by students in their gardens.

"The first question we asked ourselves: Is this for real? Are they really going to spend time here on a short weekend like this?" said the Comer center's executive director Greg Mooney. "We are just absolutely thrilled and honored."

The center's mission is to prepare young people for college and careers. The visit will not only be an example of what's happening in Obama's hometown for youth, but it will give these young Chicagoans a glimpse of what is possible in the world.

"I think them being here will be able to give a sense of encouragement that we will be successful and that we can be like them too someday," said Comer student Joshua Jackson.

"This is going to be very empowering for them, having a visit of this particular type, give the, pride enough to know they can do anything, they can do more they can make a contribution, " said Comer Youth Center Senior Program Director Ayoka Samuels.

The center opened in 2006. And, center-wide, 80 percent of their kids are on track to graduate high school and attend four-year colleges.

Mrs. Obama grew up not too far from the center. She apparently wants to show her neighborhood.

We can expect to hear more details soon about other events throughout the city relating to NATO visitors.