From Oakland to Hawaii: Middle school students on a life-changing adventure

A group of Bay Area students are on an adventure in Hawaii giving them a whole new perspective on what's possible

Tara Campbell Image
Saturday, April 8, 2023
Oakland middle school students on a life-changing Hawaiian adventure
A group of middle-school students from Oakland are on an adventure in Hawaii giving them a whole new perspective on what's possible.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A group of middle-school students from Oakland are on an adventure in Hawaii giving them a whole new perspective on what's possible.

Twelve middle-schooler's Oakland Unified School District were chosen to take part in "Travel Academy" a partnership between Alaska Airlines and STATE Bags, a company supporting children and families through every purchase of their bags.

"I was shocked because I never knew I'd be able to go somewhere farther than I'd never been before in my life because I've never been out of state," said 8th grade student, Marcus Wheeler.

He and the others experiencing a lot of firsts over the past week; learning the history and culture of Hawaii and the importance of sustainability and ocean conservation.

"It's very beautiful," said Marcus. 'We've been going to a lot of places with trees and all that and the Hawaiian people like to pray there and do crops."

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"Kids from these communities are often met with so many barriers and challenges that it's hard for them to think to themselves, 'I can still do it. I can still beat the odds stacked against me'," said Scot Tatelman, Co-Founder STATE Bags, noting the week's itinerary is purposefully packed with risk taking outings, like ziplining.

"This was actually my second time ziplining, but this one was higher and farther, so the last one I was a little scared, and we took some photos and my face was like "pop" so, yeah I was scared," said Marcus.

"Snorkeling was a big thing for a couple of kids that don't swim in the open ocean. There was some panic in the air for a few of them," said Tatelman, who spent time with some of the students on kickboards, including Marcus.

"I kind of got emotional because he was so proud of himself. He was shocked that he was doing this - and then I got him to put the mask on and look down and look at the reef and look at the fish and he couldn't believe where he was."

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"I was kind of scared that I was going to drown when I went inside the water. I thought I'm going to drown right now," said seventh grade student, Anaya Sarfraz, who also overcame her fear.

"I saw all the fishes that I have never seen and we saw a school of fishes. They were all in a circle and it looked really beautiful."

And beyond the fish she worked through some other fears, making new friends.

"The first day I was really quiet and I really didn't know who to talk to and get along with people but now I get along with everyone and it's really fun," said Anaya, who is eager to take the lessons learned and friends she made in Hawaii back home to Oakland.

"I'm going to be having more friends in the school and tell other people that you should try to become friends with others you don't know," she said.

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