South Philadelphia students headed to White House thanks to community

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Despite all the rancor in Washington these days, the mere mention of that city is enough to prompt wide smiles from some eager teenagers here at home.

A group of students from South Philadelphia has never been there before, but first thing Wednesday morning, thanks to some real generosity, that all changes.

"It's a really big deal. Many of our kids have not been out of Philadelphia; they've not taken a train," school counselor Emily Goodman said.

The students are part of the My Brother's Keeper mentoring program, an initiative launched by the White House several years ago.

Recently, the mentors decided to try to take the kids on a trip to Washington D.C. for a symposium at the Department of Education.

For many, the trip would mark the first time they've traveled out-of-state.

Most of the students come from underprivileged backgrounds; almost all qualify for free or reduced lunch.

"This is our opportunity to battle chronic absenteeism," Tyler Wims of My Brother's Keeper said.

But even inspiration costs money - money these kids and their families just don't have.

In fact, some didn't even have the appropriate attire for the trip.

"A lot of our kids are battling poverty and they're on the street trying to find different ways to make money," Wims said.

The mentors turned to the community for help posting a fundraiser on Facebook.

"Surprising to me was how fast donations came. Within an hour, I had raised already over a couple hundred dollars," TJ Dean of The Future Project said.

Donations came pouring in. 24 hours later, they raised $1,300.

The kids went shopping, got train tickets, and still have a little money left over to tour the city.

Daquan Jackson, one of the students, was able to visit the White House recently and even saw President Obama deliver a speech.

"It was very beautiful. I got to see Barack Obama say a speech; it was great," Jackson said.

For some, it's just a trip a couple hundred miles away. But mentors say a little investment of time and money can transform a child's life.

The kids are set to leave early Wednesday morning. They'll return later in the day.

The mentors say this will be just the first of many trips to come.

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