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Obama visits Pomona high school students whose video he mentioned in his education speech

March 19, 2009 | 11:04 am

Our colleague, Maeve Reston, who is handling pool duties this morning during President Obama's Southern California stops, reports that the AP Literature and Composition students at Pomona's Village Academy High School were beside themselves when the president paid a call:

Teacher Michael Steinman said that when his students learned Wednesday that Obama would visit them, their reaction was "disbelief."

The students had made a video, "Is Anyone Listening?" (see second video on this post) -- about the horrible economy and its devastating effects on their families. In his education speech last week in Washington, the president mentioned the video and singled out one student: Yvonne Bojorquez.

Bojorquez, 16, said she was shocked to learn that the president would be paying a call. "To be honest, I almost cried," she said. "It was pretty crazy. It’s very exciting. Even right now I just want to scream at the top of my lungs.

"I just want to say thanks for listening, that was our first goal from the beginning and it’s very awesome to know that he’s someone we can actually reach -- that’s it’s not impossible to get a hold of him. We all agree with him that we have to like, kind of, get together and be a whole community about this....  We’re willing to get together and change, everybody."

Steinman, the teacher, who also appears on the nine-minute video, said his students are "the toast of the town."

He added that, "For me as a teacher, the whole process was about giving the kids a voice and allowing them to use freedom of speech to express the heartache they and their families were feeling because of the economy. I made them a promise if they did it [the video], I’d make sure the president found out about it."

Steinman said he hoped the students would draw the lesson that if they "set their sights on something that seems unattainable, and if they focus and stay with it, they can actually have it fulfilled. And that’s a lesson I hope they carry with them their whole lives."

Another student, 17-year-old Beverly Ponce, said she was shocked that their goal "was achieved in so little time ... before school is done."

Sixteen-year-old Sonya Steward, a junior who said she would be attending Obama’s town hall meeting at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex this afternoon -- which we'll be live blogging -- said she was hoping to personally thank the president for "seeing the video and delivering it in the speech."

"Most of us have lost hope in America and in the economy and what’s going on and you’ve given us that hope back just by letting us know you’ve actually seen and heard what we had to say," said Steward, who added that her family recently lost its healthcare insurance. The nation’s troubles, she said, have brought "financial problems, and lots of stress, lots of arguing and fighting" to her family.

-- Robin Abcarian

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