Chicago (CNN) -- Returning to her hometown Thursday, first lady Michelle Obama personally helped cap off a year-long education and employment program benefiting Chicago inner-city students.
Some of the high school seniors attending the event as part of the Urban Alliance Chicago program are from neighborhoods close to where the first lady herself was raised.
"That's one of the reasons as first lady I talk about my background," Obama told about 50 students. "Because I'm proud of it."
Obama used the event, which didn't veer off script and did not allow for any questions from the media, to offer support and advice to students who participated in paid internships and formal work training. She congratulated them for overcoming the obstacles and distractions many of them face while growing up in some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods.
"Don't feel as if you have to change anything fundamentally about yourself" she told them.
She urged them to find support networks after finishing high school and moving on in life. She used her own experiences as an example, and sent the crowd into laughter on at least a couple occasions including when referring to her alma matter Princeton as "the most Ivy League of Ivy League schools."
She recounted one of her earliest memories attending college. "I met the granddaughter of the person who the dorm was named after and I was like 'really?!'"
"One of the reasons I applied there was because my brother was already there, and I knew I was smarter than him," she went on to tell the group of enthusiastic students. "The thing that got me through was finding my base of support there."
"Find your support system and know that can't do this yourself," she said.