United gives students dream trip to Hawaii

May 20, 2008 11:23:17 AM PDT
You may recall Aloha and ATA Airlines suddenly went bankrupt this year, stranding thousands of travelers to Hawaii.

It was especially dissapointing for a group of kids in Oakland.

These students worked so hard and it was it was such an amazing opportunity. Then they saw it all go away, and they called 7 On Your Side.

Many students in East Oakland never dreamed of college.

"It costs too much. I'm living in poverty I don't' have the money to go to college," said Leadership Public High School student Shenae Simon.

Until they came to Leadership Public High School where college is not only encouraged, it's expected.

"If you have the drive and you have the belief in yourself, add the energy and add the effort along with that and anything is possible," said Leadership Public High School principal Andrew Gordon.

And one of their classes proved it. They decided to raise money to take a year-end trip far from the tough streets; further than they'd ever been before -- all the way to Hawaii.

"You just get to see a whole different world, because I see this every day and just to wake up somewhere different," said Leadership High School student Jalissa Preyer.

"I wanted to feel the water, it has warm water come on now who doesn't want to go to Hawaii," said Leadership High School student Nicole Preston.

So they sold donuts, worked part-time and raised $4,000 to buy their airline tickets. The kids were all excited to go, and then the crushing blow. Their airline, ATA, suddenly went bankrupt.

All that money was gone.

"All my dreams were just crushed. There was so much stuff I was going there for," said Preston.

Parents were discouraged too.

"You have to push the kids forward, not let them down. They need to know what they need to work hard for and keep going," said parent Cassandra White.

So the school called 7 On Your Side. We got to work and we got some help. The kids got a surprise visit.

"I'm the general manager for United Airlines and I've got some great news for you, United Airlines is pleased to fly you all to Hawaii," said United Airlines general manager Ralph Ruckelshausen.

United Airlines donated tickets for all 11 students and two chaperones.

"And all of your commitments to education, we felt that this group is truly deserving of this," said Ruckelshausen.

On Monday morning, they took off.

"We're going to Hawaii," said the group.

"Of course it seemed like a hopeless situation. Thanks to 7 On Your Side and United Airlines, we're all able to go to Hawaii," said teacher Tonjalyn Ford.

"Does everyone know how to hula?" asked Ruckelshausen.

Because anything was possible.

7 On Your Side would like to extend a huge thanks to United Airlines and to United's San Francisco managers. United really stepped up and made this dream possible. Probably right about now, the kids are sinking their toes in the sand of Waikiki. We'll wait for the postcards.


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