Haile Thomas

Ron Medvescek, Arizona Daily Sta

While the rest of Tucson sixth-grader Haile Thomas' classmates have to crack open the books to learn about history, she will get to experience it firsthand.

The 12-year-old champion for healthy eating has been invited to sit in first lady Michelle Obama's box at today's State of the Union address.

"I'm very excited and just honored to be a part of the event," Thomas said Monday while waiting for her flight in Phoenix.

It's Thomas' goal to inspire kids to build healthy habits, including eating well and being active.

She started spreading her message through an online cooking show she created and hosts called "Kids Can Cook." She has also spoken at the Clinton Foundation's Health Matters Conference and the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit, where she first met Mrs. Obama. Thomas also serves on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Youth Advisory Board, an organization that tackles issues related to childhood obesity.

"I've been really empowered to make a difference not only in my community but beyond that," she said.

This is the fourth time Thomas has been invited to participate in an event with the first lady, who shares her passion for combating childhood obesity.

In August, Thomas' quinoa salad recipe was served at first Kids' State Dinner hosted by Mrs. Obama at the White House. Thomas also helped escort Mrs. Obama from her plane during her Tucson visit in April.

Thomas said she got an email inviting her to today's speech. "I'm just looking forward to being part of such a historical event and getting to be in such amazing company and so many great people, and I know that I'm going to take a lot away from this as an inspiration," she said.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or at 573-4224.