Rochester students meet the president - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Fanna Haile-Selassie

Rochester students meet the president

Rochester, Minn. (KTTC-DT) -- It's not everyday you get to meet the President of the United States, if ever at all. But some high-achieving students in Rochester got the honor on Saturday, though, they weren't expecting it.

From the classroom to the situation room, these kids are going places. Eight students from Lincoln K-8 Choice school were picked to present at a national science conference in Washington D.C. this past weekend. They also got a tour of the White House.

"Eating in the situation room was okay. It's like a regular conference office, but I guess it was the 'situation room'," exclaims 7th grader Chok Koth.

While some students may not have found the entire tour impressive, meeting President Barack Obama was on a whole other level.

"I jumped up and almost tackled him," says Koth.

"Right after we left, I called my mom and I was like, 'Oh my God, mom, I just met the president of the United States.' And she was like, 'Oh my gosh, that's so cool.' And I'm like, 'It's more than cool," explains 8th grader Jac Bennett.

President Obama surprised the group and congratulated them on their innovative approach to education. An approach that is giving Principal Jim Sonju and his staff high accolades around Minnesota and the nation.

"He said, 'Where are the teachers,' and he went up to them individually and said "Thank you for what you do.' And it was genuine, it was truly wonderful," says Sonju.

What these students do is truly something special. They're working with Mayo Clinic researchers and Winona State University professors to do scientific research.

"In grade school, I remember demonstration projects. Middle school, I don't remember any of this kind of stuff, maybe a little bit of a lab time," explains Karl Clark, a Mayo Clinic assistant professor of bio-chemistry.

The students study zebra fish and they're unique qualities. A professor from Pittsburgh has taken interest in 8th grader Jac Bennett and her group's research and plans on citing them in his own thesis.

It's a science program stretching these students' minds and uncovering new life choices.

"When I was younger I always wanted to be a fashion designer, but now that I've been doing more and more science, I'm looking into being a biologist of some sort," exclaims Bennett.

Lincoln Choice's innovative science program is incorporated throughout all grade levels. But the 8 student ambassadors were chosen to go to D.C. after writing an essay on their research.

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