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First lady seeks to inspire London pupils

OXFORD, England -- First lady Michelle Obama used her own life as an example of how hard work and perseverance can prevail yesterday as she spoke with students from a multiethnic school in an economically deprived area.

She told the girls touring the University of Oxford for the day that they have to battle low self-esteem and learn to stand up for themselves with confidence.

The message to the 35 students was that even elite universities like Oxford are within their grasp.

"We passionately believe that you have the talent within you, you have the drive, and you have the experience to succeed here at Oxford and at universities just like it across the country and across the world," she said. "By overcoming challenges you have gained strength, courage and maturity far beyond your years. And those qualities will help you succeed in school and in life."

The first lady, on the second day of a presidential state visit to Britain, traveled to meet with the students from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in London. The school, which the first lady visited in 2009, serves one of the most economically deprived areas in Britain and has a high rate of scholastic success despite the hardships its students face.

Its student body of 900 girls speaks 59 different native languages. Its exam results have been steadily rising, coming close to the national average despite the challenges.

One of the students, Gabriele Watts, said the visit was "amazing" because Obama was able to relate to her audience. "She's got children around the same age as us, and she comes from a similar background to us," the 15-year-old said.

The girls, in gray uniforms, were not shy with the first lady. They asked her questions about her own battles with low self-esteem.

"I had doubts, I wasn't sure, because other people told me I might not be able to do well in school for whatever reason," she said. "I have doubts today, doubts don't go away, you just learn how to deal with them, you know yourself and become more confident and take more chances and don't let stumbles define you."

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