Presidential Dreams for Bay Area Students

Students at Barack Obama Academy scrounge together money for trip to the White House

By Christie Smith
|  Thursday, Mar 11, 2010  |  Updated 5:28 AM PDT
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President Barack Obama delivers a speech at Arcadia University in Glenside.

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Students at Barack Obama Academy, the first middle school in the nation to name itself after  the 44th president, want to meet the school's namesake.

The small Oakland school was founded in 2007 with the name Alternative Learning Community, a place for students who had struggled  a traditional living environments. The school has just 35 students, nearly all from low-income families.

But students felt there was a stigma attached to the world 'alternative.' Barack Obama's "Yes we can" campaign message inspired the students, instilling a positive vision in their own futures, and the students pushed for the name change.

Under the new name, they are re-energized. For 12 of them, the new name also meant a new mission: Raise money to get to Washington, D.C., to visit the real Barack Obama.

They participated in fundraisers and, with the help of the school, scraped together about $1500 each. Now, they're set to depart for the nation's capital on April 3.

For some of them, this is the first time ever leaving California, and opportunities like this usually aren't available to most of these students, principal Toni McElroy said.

"It will give them a global sense of success," McElroy said.

Part of their itinerary is set. They'll see the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. 

But will they see the Commander in Chief?

McElroy said they are getting help from Congresswoman Barbara Lee's office. If they get to see Obama, it will likely be set up at the last minute. 

But the school is decked out in Obama gear, and the students have read up on him and written letters.

The letters tell a little of the history of the namesake school and politely ask for a meeting with President Obama

The students say they feel a connection with the president. An unlikely choice, but he did it.  Makes them wonder if they can too.

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