KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Some hard-working students got an early Christmas present from their Georgia school on Tuesday.
Thirty elementary school students from Atlanta flew to Knoxville for the day, all in recognition of their performance in the classroom.
For most of the students from the Unidos Dual Language Charter School in Atlanta, this was the very first time they'd ever flown in an airplane.
"It was really cool and I got to see everything through the windows. Everything looked really small," said Selena McCreer, a student at Unidos.
"Well when we first went up, I felt a little lightheaded and then when we came down, it felt like we crashed a little, but we didn't," said Kiwi Cody, a student at Unidos.
Tuesday morning, they stepped off the plane and set foot in East Tennessee.
"This is my first time experiencing or doing something without my mommy and daddy," said Cody.
After landing, the students spent the day at the Children's Museum in Oak Ridge. The trip is a reward for excelling in their school's reading program.
"Our mission is for all our students to read and write, speak and spell in English and Spanish," said Dell Giles, the dual language coordinator at Unidos.
"My mommy just told me to start reading and I just did it. And it got me here," said Cody.
These students hit the books all year long.
"I'm just glad that my work will pay off," said Cody.
"They work really hard, but it's pretty natural for them. When we start learning languages as children, it's easier than if we start learning languages when we're teenagers or adults," said Giles.
ExpressJet Airlines has provided the flight for the last ten years.
"It's a great opportunity to support the kids of their community and something that is really festive and a celebration of all their hard efforts," said Becky Huckaby, airport spokesperson for McGhee Tyson Airport.
It's a Christmas gift from their school, but a gift these students earned themselves.
"Experience something they might not otherwise have an opportunity to do," said Giles.
Every year, more than 200 students compete in the reading program, hoping to make the trip to East Tennessee.