WINSTON SALEM, N.C. – Kathy Proctor, who is studying biotechnology at Forsyth Technical Community College, will be seated near First Lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union address tonight.

Proctor met President Obama in December when he toured a biotech lab at the school. He listened intently to her story about getting laid off from a furniture factory.

President Obama made his commitment to science and technology very clear in the first minutes of his presidency, when he promised in his Inaugural Address that his Administration would “restore science to its rightful place.”

Tonight that rightful place will be the First Lady’s Box in the U.S. Capitol, where four remarkable science students from across the country will join Michelle Obama and other guests during the President’s State of the Union Address.

According to Proctor, she received the call from the White House on Jan. 19

“I was driving down I-40 to meet my daughter for lunch when they asked me if I’d like to sit in the First Lady’s box in the gallery,” she told The Triad Business Journal. “I was totally surprised by this amazing and unexpected invitation. It’s such an honor.”

Proctor, who is 55 and a single mom of twin 18-year-old daughters, first drew President Obama’s attention during his tour of Forsyth Tech’s biotech labs on his Dec. 6 visit to the college. At that time, Proctor explained to the president that she had been employed in the struggling furniture industry for 30 years.

“He asked me if I had seen the layoffs coming,” she said in a recent interview. “I told him I decided to retrain for a new career because those furniture jobs kept disappearing.”

Proctor said she chose biotechnology, because she recognized it as an emerging field that will offer the jobs of the future.

She and her twin daughters, Meghan and Amanda who are 18, are flying to Washington today and will return Wednesday. Her expenses will be paid, Proctor said.

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