And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters.”
I knocked on the door of a rusting mobile-classroom trailer where an 8th-grade social studies class was under way, and the teacher graciously allowed me to interrupt his lesson. When I asked the students whether they knew anything about Congress and the fiercely contested stimulus bill, Ty’Sheoma was one of the few students to raise her hand.
“All I know is that the Congress might not agree that we need help and they might deny the president the money he needs to help us,” the 14-year-old explained.
“People are starting to see my school as an hopeless, uneducated school which we are not,” Ty’Sheoma wrote. “We finally want to prove to the world that we have an chance in life just like other schools and we can feel good about what we are doing because of the conditions we are in now we can not succeed in anything.”
Watch A Video of Obama Quoting Ty’Sheoma Bethea
Watch a CBS News Profile of Ty’Sheoma Bethea