Hope is contagious at Fitler Academics Plus School.
Just ask Kyshon Jackson.
"We were so proud when Barack Obama got elected, but pride isn't enough," said Jackson, an eighth grader. "We've got to change the world, help the community."
Inspired by the president-elect's call to make a difference, the Obama Hope Organization has sprung up at the Germantown school. Jackson is a charter member and a firm believer that the grassroots group will make positive change in her community.
Obama's election was a personal watershed for principal Willette Jones, and when she talked to her students about it, she was struck by their enthusiasm for and eloquence about the first African American president.
"They said, 'He's going to be awesome!' They said, 'I think he can help get better health care for my grandma because she's so sick,' " Jones said.
Seeking a way to keep the momentum going, Jones and the Fitler teachers asked students to write a letter to Obama.
The results were beautiful, said Jones and lead teacher Christina Sosangelis. Students soaked up lessons in history, civics and writing, perfecting their letters, which were sent out this month.
"You opened the eyes of young people all over the world," wrote Makalah Lawton.
"Finally, my hopes and dreams are for the people of this country to stop being violent. I want everyone to live a better life, just like you," wrote Quadir Stewart.
"I hope that you have a great life and that you will be the greatest, because I was Barack Obama for Halloween and I wanted black people to kick it up a notch and win. Call me anytime," wrote Tymeer Beal, who conveniently provided the president-elect with his phone number in case Obama wanted his advice on kicking it up a notch.
The letters were fine, but the youngsters had long-lasting change in mind. Enter the Obama Hope Organization, which has held meetings, set goals, and planned its first initiative: a literacy campaign pairing younger students with older ones to boost the school's reading efforts.
In classrooms around the first-through-eighth-grade school of 340 students, conversation centers on what Obama's election means.
"My family didn't just vote for Barack Obama because of race," eighth grader Eric Gainor said. "It was because he will be the best aid to this broken economy."
Even the first graders are getting into the act.
"I said, 'I hope you can fix stuff, because people are poor,' " said Kyrell Harrison.
"I want Barack Obama to help the older people and the younger people," Daisy Stone said.
"I said, 'Will you please be a good president and we're counting on you,' " said Jaden Rimes, a confident young man who says he knows exactly what it means to be the president: "It means taking care of people. And lowering prices."
Principal Jones wrote to Obama, too.
"The energy and enthusiasm generated in our school, as a result of your victory, has surely renewed our students' passion and commitment to the unlimited possibilities for their future success and 'pursuit of happiness,' " she wrote.
The Obama Hope Organization, chartered by a handful of seventh- and eighth-grade students, has big plans.
Eighth grader Sierra Graham ticked off the things she wants the group to accomplish, aligned with Obama's focus on education and health care.
"We should try to influence the young children to be anything they want to be," Graham said. (Think of the planned literacy campaign and a tutoring program for students who need help, she added.)
Her friend Michelle Harvey, who said the group wants to recruit more members, nodded.
"We hope to volunteer our time, to give back, to be mentors. We'll donate to the less fortunate," Harvey said.
But the talk isn't all serious, Kyshon Jackson confessed. She's spent a fair amount of time thinking about how the president is cute.
"At first, I was going to write him a love letter," she said. "But I didn't think Michelle would like it. She seems feisty."