West Oakland Middle School students awarded Spring Break trip to Hawaii
OAKLAND, Calif. - A group of 12 middle school students in Oakland are living a once-in-a-lifetime experience; they were offered an all expense paid trip to Hawaii.
The experience started Sunday morning - students and their parents gathered at West Oakland Middle School to meet chaperones and organizers. Sydney Lee said "safe travels" to her daughter.
"I'm excited and nervous," she said. "It's the first time she's traveled without me."
All 12 students were selected to spend spring break in Oahu and Maui for free. It's a collaboration between Oakland Unified Schools, Alaska Airlines, and a travel luggage company called State Bags. Scot Tatelman is State's co-founder.
"This is part of growing, and feeling 'wow I'm going to be really far away from my family,'" he said. That's why we do this, to get kids understanding there is a world outside of this neighborhood."
Tatelman says this is part of his company's "Travel Academy." Not only is it a chance for kids to spend time in a tropical paradise, but they will also learn how to be mindful tourists, learn the state's history, and volunteer.
"We want this to be sightseeing but we also want this to be soul searching and soul building," said Tatelman.
At SFO's Alaska Airlines check in counters, students say the idea of traveling to Hawaii was still sinking in.
"I don't feel it yet," said Latanya Nolan, an 8th grade student at West Oakland Middle. "I don't think it's real yet."
That changed when they passed through security and made it to Gate D inside the airport.
"I'm excited, I just want to explore the place," said Erick Cortez, in 7th grade.
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"I'm not scared but im nervous," said 8th grader Markus Wheeler. "My first time on an airplane."
"All know is they have a beautiful scenery, and I love beautiful sceneries," said 8th grade student Sierra Kang. "They want to change lives show kids they care for them."
Students say they are grateful for the opportunity. They hope to soak up much more than the sun.
"I hope she takes away everything," said Lee, regarding her daughter's trip. "Everything there is to offer. The experience, the flight, the culture of the place she's visiting, being around indigenous places and the people there."