Excitement still rings from the voices of area students who returned this week from a five-day ski trip with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalyn.
"It was like a dream come true," said Maria Wright, a junior at T.W. Josey Comprehensive High School. "I've never experienced anything like it. The snow, the people, skiing."
Maria, Jamal Holmes, a 10th-grader at Burke County Alternative School, and Edward Gregory III, a junior at Greenbrier High School, joined seven other students from the Atlanta area on a Colorado ski trip Feb. 10-14.
The ski trip and auction were part of the Carters' fund-raising efforts for the Carter Center, which seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts and enhance freedom for democracy.
Students chosen for the trip are members of FutureForce, a program designed by Communities In Schools to help at-risk teen-agers develop strong leadership and life skills.
The students said the trip is hard to put into words.
"When we got off the plane we were like `Wow,"' Maria said. "I've never seen snow like that, and the houses on the mountains were so beautiful."
It was the first time Maria and Jamal had been on an airplane and the first time the two had skied.
"We ran into some turbulence right away and I was like, `What's going on?"' Maria said.
"I was scared, to tell you the truth," Jamal said of the plane ride, "but I knew everything would be all right."
Both said they fell a few times while learning to ski but got the hang of it as the days went on.
The recognition from the Carters is another thing the students say was extraordinary.
"We went to a town meeting and he introduced us," Maria said. "He said so many good things about us. I admire him for all the things he's done. I didn't know he'd done as much as he has."
Jamal said the temperature in Colorado could have been a little higher.
"It was too cold, but it was a nice place," he said.
"I'll never forget how the people treated us," Maria said. "They treated us with so much respect and dignity. We didn't expect them to pay any attention to us."
"I was glad I was one of the chosen ones, and I appreciate the Carters for that," Jamal said.
Gregory couldn't be reached for comment.