By Joel Hall
The North Clayton Middle School Dancin-N-Steppin Tigers step team has asked the Clayton County Board of Commissioners for help in raising $6,000 to get to the historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
Over the past few months, the group has raised more than $24,000 to send 70 students and 24 chaperones to the Jan. 20 event, but has fallen short of its goal as the inauguration approaches.
Parents and students from the school petitioned the commission Tuesday night for the other $6,000 needed to make the trip.
"I know that in all the speeches I have ever heard you give, it has been about helping the children," Regina Nelson-Fambro told commission Chairman Eldrin Bell.
She asked the board to make an "investment" in the county's youth by using its power and influence to help the students make the three-day trip via charter bus to Washington, D.C.
"I've applied for grants and several times we didn't get it because of the accreditation issue," said Nelson-Fambro. "I feel that these students are underdogs and they are all under circumstances that aren't under their control. I feel like we should support them now voluntarily, and show them that something better is out there, or we'll support them later with our taxes through the penal system."
The step team, which Nelson-Fambro helped create in late 2008, needs the money this week in order to leave for the nation's capital early Sunday morning. Attending the inauguration has been one of the team's goals since its founding, she said.
Nelson-Fambro said students and parent-chaperones have raised the lion's share of the funds by coordinating a Clayton County-wide step team competition, pizza and candy sales, skating events, and other fundraisers. She said College Park rapper Yung Joc gave a $1,000 donation in December.
Nelson-Fambro said Commissioner Gail Hambrick has been instrumental in helping the group receive donations and referred the group to a lawyer when a local bank refused to deposit donations into an account set up for the step team.
Hambrick could not be reached Tuesday night.
The step team plans to attend the inauguration and Podcast the event back to nearly 900 other students who can't attend.
"It's a Title I school," said Nelson-Fambro. "Eighty percent of the students are on free or reduced[-price] lunch. They need to see the impact that a vote has. It can't be an activity on television."
Those wishing to make donations to the step team can contact Nelson-Fambro through North Clayton Middle School or at (678) 508-7141.