Malia Obama has grown up in the public eye, but this next big step she’s taking in private.
The First Daughter, 17, is graduating Friday from Washington, DC’s private Sidwell Friends School and her parents are determined to attend and applaud – and shed a proud, sentimental tear or two – just like any other parent. No press coverage by White House reporters and no photo-ops to be broadcast across the globe. The Obamas “are treating this as a private family moment,” a White House official tells PEOPLE.
Neither of her parents is scheduled to speak at the ceremony.
On Thursday, the President made his first appearance on The Tonight Show and told host Jimmy Fallon that he’s got a pair of sunglasses ready for for his oldest daughter’s graduation – just in case he can’t stop the tears.
“I think Malia … is very eager to get out of [the White House],” he added about her upcoming milestone and his exit from the Oval early next year.
During her four years at the private Washington high school, Malia played soccer and tennis, practiced the flute and piano and studied a handful of subjects, including Spanish – which was evident during the family’s recent trip to Cuba, where she acted as an interpreter for her father.
While Malia may be crossing the commencement stage out of the public eye, the President has spoken candidly – and emotionally – about what it’s like to have his oldest daughter leaving the nest.
“My daughter leaving me is just breaking my heart,” the president said just last week in a speech at an Indiana high school.
“If there are any parents here, I hope you can give me some pointers on how not to cry too much at the ceremony and embarrass her.”
And in March, the president reflected sentimentally on the family’s White House adventure. “When I was first elected to this office, Malia was 10 and Sasha was just 7,” he said. “And they grew up too fast. This fall, Malia heads off to college. And I’m starting to choke up. ”
Although President Obama brought up Malia’s impending college semester, a May statement from the White House revealed that the teenager will take a gap year before she follows in her father’s footsteps and attends Harvard in the fall of 2017.
Before committing to the Ivy League school, Malia reportedly toured several other top universities, including her mother’s alma mater, Princeton. The President said he reminded his daughter not to get hung up on a name.
“One piece of advice that I’ve given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college,” he said during a town hall on college affordability. “There are a lot of good colleges and universities out there … Just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.”