One year, two months later, the first ever Washington DC trip by my school’s students is scheduled to take place on the 20th of this month.
What a year its been.
We embarked on this endeavor with nothing but hope and determination, never having fundraised before, not having a model to follow. Only by the sheer will of determined students and parents have we made it this far.
70 of the original 100 students are scheduled to travel on June 20th. For most, it will be their first time ever flying on a plane. The last three weeks have included student meetings on topics such as how to pack a suitcase, the rules of getting through security at the airport, what to expect at the hotel, and of course a preview of our jam-packed itinerary.
I have been inspired by the individual stories of my students. Joseph, who works at night with his father and has paid a portion of his trip with his wages. Juan who has sold soccer balls and purses to his relatives. Angie and her mom who walked down Compton Bl. asking for donations from business and defending their reason for doing so.
Kayla, who held fundraising barbecues. The endless amount of moms who slaved making tamales to sell at events and for the teachers. Leslie, who is not going on the trip, but shows up at 6:00 am in front of the school to help other DC students with fundraisers.
The staff at my school has shown their support for the students in ways that bring a knot to my throat, tears to my eyes. These teachers who have dealt with 10 furlough days in two years (and are facing 20 next year) have been the students’ first and best customers from cheesecakes, to taquitos, to mangoneadas, nuts, Carl’s Jr., Hometown Buffet, and Avon.
And the corporations? Absent. Hundreds of letters sent. No luck.
Our biggest donors have been regular individuals who have chipped in $20, $50, or $100 bucks as often as they could. A former teacher put down almost $1000. One organization, Building Healthy Communities, donated $2500 for our cause. This was thanks to the folks at the National Council for La Raza who steered us in their direction. The West Hollywood Drag Queens also allowed us to put on a function that netted us over $800. We are humbled and grateful.
We lost students who could not participate in fundraising due to the extreme hardships they face living in an economy that is choking the life out of the poor, the needy, the dis-empowered. When people have no safety nets, no social networks, no flexibility with their job (if they’re lucky to have one) then hosting barbecue fundraiser is truly a luxury. These are the families who I later discovered used the small amount of fundraising money made by the kids to pay their rent. I can’t forget those kids.
Still, for the sake of the remaining students we move forward. And what an experience awaits us. Our travel company Worldstrides, has gone out of its way to make this trip possible, since they don’t often get customers from our part of town. Well now they do!
This trip has changed students, has changed the school. Some students have found their forte; they will grow up to be fierce businessmen and women. Gigi in particular is a killer. She used her broken foot to grow her sales to unbelievable numbers. She once raised $200 during lunch time. I would stare in wonder trying to figure out how she managed to make so many open their wallets and give willingly. Then she would flash her sweet smile and that explained it all.
Students now know what businesses have the best prices, offer the biggest discounts, and how to maximize their profit margins. More importantly, they now have faith in themselves. If they were able to fundraise an $1900 trip, they can do anything.
We are not finished raising funds. We have 18 days to get to the finish line. There are about 12 students whose accounts are still in danger. We are working to finish gathering the $7000 still left to raise in the time left. Keeping our fingers crossed.
Stay tuned for live blogging from our South Central departure in the wee hours of June 20th to our return on the 24th. And thank you for all your support!