While living with his grandparents, Obama enrolled in the esteemed Punahou Academy, excelling in basketball and graduating with academic honors in 1979. As one of only three black students at the school, Obama became conscious of racism and what it meant to be African American. He later described how he struggled to reconcile social perceptions of his multiracial heritage with his own sense of self: I began to notice there was nobody like me in the Sears, Roebuck Christmas catalog and that Santa was a white man, he said. I went to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror with all my senses and limbs seemingly intact, looking the way I had always looked, and wondered if something was wrong with me.Obama also struggled with the absence of his father, who he saw only once more after his parents divorced, when Obama Sr. visited Hawaii for a short time in 1971. [My father] had left paradise, and nothing that my mother or grandparents told me could obviate that single, unassailable fact, he later reflected. They couldnt describe what it might have been like had he stayed.
Ten years later, in 1981, tragedy struck Obama Sr. He was involved in a serious car accident, losing both of his legs as a result. Confined to a wheelchair, he also lost his job. In 1982, Obama Sr. was involved in yet another car accident while traveling in Nairobi. This time, however, the crash was fatal. Obama Sr. died on November 24, 1982, when Barack was 21 years old. At the time of his death, my father remained a myth to me, Obama later said, both more and less than a man.After high school, Obama studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years. He then transferred to Columbia University in New York, graduating in 1983 with a degree in political science. After working in the business sector for two years, Obama moved to Chicago in 1985. There, he worked on the South Side as a community organizer for low income residents in the Roseland and the Altgeld Gardens communities.