First Lady recognizes first generation college graduate - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

First Lady recognizes first generation college graduate

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

Saturday morning, thousands of people listened as First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the 2011 graduating class at the University of Northern Iowa.

While most saw the First Lady from afar, a few graduates had a more intimate meeting with Mrs. Obama. Before commencement, she met with graduates who were recognized for going above and beyond in serving their community. That includes Lux Service Award recipient Darion Watson.

"I woke up at 6:22 this morning," Watson told KWWL.

Graduation day was a long one for Watson. But his family has waited even longer for this day to come.

"I'm a first generation college student. So to be able to represent my family as well... the people who couldn't make it here, it was an honor for me," he explained.

Watson thought he was dreaming big by simply enrolling in a four-year college. He never imagined the White House would take notice of his commitment to education, or that a prestigious award for service would come with a hug from the First Lady.

"We've got graduates like Darion Watson, from Gary. He's the first person in his family to go to college -- and he's inspired his older siblings to think about getting their degrees too," First Lady Michelle Obama said in her address to UNI Graduates.

"I was honored by the First Lady Michelle Obama. She actually gave me a hug at commencement, mentioned my name in her speech. So it was a lot of great things that took place today that I didn't expect to take place," Watson said.

His take on Mrs. Obama?

"She smiled, and I looked at her teeth, and was like, wow, she has white teeth!" he laughed.

But more importantly, he'll never forget the impression she left on him.

"I will always remember that she is genuine and she's a real person," Watson said.

For graduates like Watson, the added security, the long day, none of it really mattered. Because in 10, 20 years, they can say Michelle Obama spoke at their graduation and maybe more importantly, they're college graduates.

"Graduation is over! Finally!" Watson added. "Paving the way for my nieces and nephews... and my children even. It's something that's so important to me."

Watson isn't done with school yet -- he'll start work on his master's degree in the fall.

Watson was among three graduates who received the Lux Service Award. The First Lady made it a point to recognize their commitment to serving their community.

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