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Former President Barack Obama has been a fierce advocate for youth empowerment, and he’s advancing his efforts to uplift youngsters from underserved communities. According to the Chicago Tribune, Obama recently made a surprise visit to a Chicago-based YMCA community center.

The city of Chicago has been a backdrop for pivotal moments throughout the former president’s life; it’s the hometown of his beloved wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, the place where he began to lay the foundation for his grassroots-focused civic engagement work, the city where the Obamas raised their children and where he launched his first political campaign. Chicago will also be home to the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center, a museum and public space designed to cultivate community and pay homage to the Obamas and trailblazers who came before them.

While visiting Chicago alongside Michelle for events led by the Obama Presidential Foundation, he made an unannounced appearance at the South Side YMCA during an after-school basketball event hosted by the WNBA’s Chicago Sky and the NBA’s Chicago Bulls teams. During his visit, Obama spoke about the YMCA’s integral influence within the community and shared words of wisdom with the children who were participating in the basketball program.

“We used to have birthday parties here. We used to occasionally shoot some hoops here,” he shared, according to the news outlet. “This was a community center and a place of refuge for kids.”

His visit comes after the Obama Presidential Center broke ground in September.

“Chicago is where I found the purpose I’d been seeking,” Obama said during the groundbreaking ceremony. “Chicago is where everything most precious to me began. It’s where I found a home. It feels natural for Michelle and me to want to give back to Chicago and to the South Side, in particular, the place where she grew up, and I came into my own. The Obama Presidential Center is our way of repaying some of what this amazing city has given us.”


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