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Why Michelle Obama Wants Teenage Girls To Take School Seriously

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MICHELLE OBAMA
First lady Michelle Obama points towards the audience while speaking to members of the American School Counselor Association during their annual conference as part of her Reach Higher Initiative, Tuesday, July 1, 2014, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Michelle Obama has a message for the readers of Seventeen.com: "Take your education seriously."

The first lady wrote an open letter to the site's readers this week, which urged young students to try hard in school and realize the privilege of going to school in a country where education is free and encouraged.

As Obama points out, there are many places around the world where girls don't necessarily receive the same treatment. She writes:

In some places, girls are viewed as less worthy of an education than boys, so when a family has limited funds, they’ll educate their sons instead of their daughters. In some parts of the world, girls are forced to get married young – sometimes before they even reach puberty – to men who might be three or four times their age, and instead of attending school, they wind up having children at a young age.

The first lady and Princeton University graduate wrote specifically about some of the education challenges facing girls around the world. She cited education activist Malala Yousafzai as an example. When Yousafzai, now 17, spoke out to advocate for girls' education in Pakistan, she was shot by Taliban terrorists.

I know that your school might not be as good as it should be, or you might be facing challenges in your family that make it hard for you to focus in class. But if girls across the globe can walk hours each day from their villages to attend school, or work two or three jobs to pay their school fees, or even risk their lives to attend school, then I know you can overcome any obstacles you face.

Obama has been especially vocal about the importance of education for girls recently. On Wednesday, she spoke with former first lady Laura Bush on the topic at President Obama's U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, according to ABC.

At the summit, Obama noted that over 60 million girls worldwide do not go to school.

"Until we prioritize our girls and understand that they are important and that their education is as important as the education of our sons, then we will have lots of work to do," said Mrs. Obama at the summit, reports CNN.

Obama also spoke about girls education when addressing African leaders last week.

We are really focusing on education broadly in the United States and girls’ education internationally,” she said, reports the New York Times. “This isn’t just something that I care about now in my role as first lady. This is an issue that we’re going to have to continue to work on as I take my last breath.”

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