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Struggling students run for their lives -

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PETER CAVE: Washington DC might be the self-appointed capital of the free world but it's also the
home to a large number of struggling African Americans.

Less than a quarter of high school students ever graduate, a third of the city's children live in
poverty, obesity is skyrocketing.

A group of volunteers is trying to change that, spending six weeks turning children into

North America correspondent Lisa Millar reports.

LISA MILLAR: It's not even 9 o'clock but the summer sun is belting down on dozens of children
turning up in the north-east of DC for a triathlon.

TRAINER: Hi guys. So do me a favour. I want you to stay with Sam. He is going to basically make
sure you have your swimsuit, your shoes, your biking gear...

LISA MILLAR: Like Trayvon Wood they've been training all summer for this moment. Some of them have
never ridden a bike or swum the length of a pool.

TRAYVON WOOD: Because you get your legs pumping and you get to do something in the summer other
than staying in the house and do nothing, just watch TV.

LISA MILLAR: Is that what you would be doing over summer if you weren't doing this?


LISA MILLAR: Trayvan Wood shares his home with his mum and eight brothers and sisters.

Aliza Bolling is a 10-year-old with big dreams.

ALIZA BOLLING: I would like to be an Olympic swimmer, a professional softball player and baseball

LISA MILLAR: She's already got one triathlon under her belt. She's come back again this year for
another shot. Her dad Anthony says it's had an enormous impact on her confidence and self esteem.

ANTHONY BOLLING: I think that these kinds of programs provide children with an opportunity to be
motivated and engaged which does nothing but encourage them to continue on with their education. It
gives them something to shoot for.

LISA MILLAR: His daughter dives into the pool. The swim leg is her favourite.

It's easy to find bad news about DC - high crime rates, high obesity numbers and few students
actually making it to the end of school.

Anton Wood is 12 and determined not to be beaten by the odds.

ANTON WOOD: Your life will get harder and harder every time you get grown up.

LISA MILLAR: Do you think life is going to get hard for you?

ANTON WOOD: Maybe. Maybe not. I'm just going to try to do the best I can. I'm not going to quit
though. I'm going to keep on going for it.

LISA MILLAR: You're not going to quit school?

ANTON WOOD: No ma'am.

LISA MILLAR: What do you hope to do when you finish school?

ANTON WOOD: I would prefer it if I don't get to be no sports person, I might be a doctor.

LISA MILLAR: Achieve is the group that runs this free summer camp. The Washington Council funds it.
It depends on volunteers to make it work and they rely on generous sponsors to donate everything
from swim suits to bikes.

(Children singing)

Molly Quinn is the executive director.

MOLLY QUINN: So I think one of the things that we try and do is just make sure kids have an
opportunity to learn more about nutrition and fitness so that it helps them as they grow up; and
also the three sports, swimming biking and running for a triathalon. One of them could excel in one
of those sports that they may have not had an opportunity to experience before. So that is really
the basis of the program.

ANTHONY BOLLING: Come on Aliza! Bring it home baby! Bring it home. Bring it home...

LISA MILLAR: Aliza Bolling's dad Anthony is stamping his feet at the finish line urging his
daughter on. He's a second generation Washingtonian and he knows that the kids who grow up here
face some of the toughest challenges around but he's confident this could make a difference.

ANTHONY BOLLING: Yes this is a great stimulus for combating dropout rates, childhood obesity and
all the other ills that children are faced with.

LISA MILLAR: Hazel Ross who's cheering on her two grandsons knows today is more than about

HAZEL ROSS: It teaches them how to hang in there, stick with it. You might not be at the top, you
know, in the front but you continue on. You don't stop, you keep going.

LISA MILLAR: It might take more than one summer but most of them think this is a pretty good start.

This is Lisa Millar in Washington for The World Today.