During a rehearsal the day before Tashia Davis was scheduled to meet First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony, she was warned: Don't reach out for a hug.
"They're like, no no no no no no no," said Davis. "You reach out your hand and sometimes she goes for the hug."
The next day, when it was Davis's turn to meet the First Lady, she saw the hug coming. "I'm like, oh my God, I'm getting a hug. I was going crazy. I was loving it. I got a big hug. It was amazing."
Davis was at the White House Nov. 2 as a representative of the Care Center, an alternative education program in Holyoke for teen mothers. The Care Center received a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the First Lady for its "Humanities Rock" programming, which is based on the belief that exposure to art, literature, history and philosophy can change the lives of young people who have grown up in poverty.
Now in her first semester at HCC, Davis, 19, had some difficult teenage years. Her mother died when was 14. She gave birth at 16 to her sons, Adiel and Jadiel, now 2, and for a while lived in a series of shelters.
"Being in a shelter with other teen moms and two children is not easy," said Davis.
She started classes at the Care Center in February 2010, completed a series of college level courses there and obtained her GED. She is the youngest graduate of the Care Center's 28-week Clemente Course, which is offered through Bard College in New York. She graduated from the Care Center July 1. She traveled to Washington with the Care Center's executive director Anne Teschner and Brendaliz Rivera, a current Care Center student.
Davis graduated from the Care Center July 1 and is in her first semester at HCC, studying liberal arts. She hopes someday to work in early childhood education.
"We're just thrilled that she has decided to continue on with her college work at HCC," said Teschner. "She is really very smart and has a lot of potential to do a lot."
She said the entire trip to Washington D.C. was like being in a movie. From the hotel to the White House, they received star treatment. But the highlight of the trip was meeting Michelle Obama.
Davis was thrilled the First Lady actually talked to her, asking about her interest in writing.
"It's such an honor to meet you," she told the First Lady.
To that, the First Lady replied, "It's such an honor for me that you're here."
Photos: (Left, by Steven Purcell) Care Center Executive Director Anne Teschner, Tashia Davis and First Lady Michelle Obama. (Right) Tashia Davis with Joan Giovannini, director of HCC's STRIVE program.