"That's just how we're characterized now, as 'the tornado kids,'" she said. "They weren't really interested in who you are, what are your hobbies."
Obama urged the students to not let their young lives be defined by the tornado but instead by the city's resiliency in forging ahead.
"The story of Joplin isn't just what happened that day, it's the story of what happened the next day. And the day after that. And all the days and weeks and months that followed," he said. "As your city manager, Mark Rohr, has said, the people here chose to define the tragedy 'not by what happened to us, but by how we responded.' The Class of 2012, that story is yours. It's part of you now."
On Tuesday, the Joplin school system will symbolically break ground at three new schools being built to replace those lost last year, including a new high school expected to open in 2014.
Ancha, who plans to study medicine in a combined six-year degree program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, now accepts being known as a tornado kid.
"For the longest time, I thought I had to go to college some place far away, I had to leave this place," she said. "But I'm glad I'm only going to be three hours away now. Because being a part of this town has meant so much to me, especially this year. Not just because of the tornado. Joplin is a great community. I definitely have the Joplin pride now."
Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at on Twitter at http://twitter.com/azagier