Delegation from Bodine High to greet France's president

Posted: February 12, 2014

On Monday, 32 students at Bodine High for International Affairs showed up for school, tackled algebra and Shakespeare, and ate school lunches.

On Tuesday, the same 32 will be on the South Lawn of the White House as guests of President Obama and as part of the delegation that will greet French President Fran├žois Hollande on his state visit.

Contacted by the White House to choose students to help welcome the French president, Philadelphia School District officials chose Bodine because of its international focus. Its students must take four years of a foreign language, and a partnership with the World Affairs Council focuses them on issues of diplomacy and global citizenship.

Brandon Butler won't be discussing policy or dancing at the official state dinner, but he realizes that getting the chance to shake a world leader's hand is a rather big deal.

"I am really excited about this experience," said Butler, a senior at the magnet in Northern Liberties. "I'm a Francophile."

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," added sophomore Antonia Wroten.

Kristin Hutchinson, the World Affairs Council staffer who works inside the school, helped organize the trip and is one of three adults who will chaperone. The students won't actually be able to go inside the White House, but that's OK, she said.

"This shows them that language is always going to be important. We want them to think about French culture, and that by studying languages, it opens the door to a world of possibility," Hutchinson said.

And while international experiences are the norm at Bodine - a delegation from South Korea recently spent a week at the school - principal Deborah Jumpp said this experience would be special.

"I saw the invitation from President Obama and Mrs. Obama, and I thought, 'Wow, that is so impressive,' " Jumpp said. "These are the kinds of things we try to do here, to move learning outside of the classroom."

kgraham@phillynews.com215-854-5146 @newskag

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