Kerry Washington mentors students at Savoy Elementary

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Fourth and 5th graders at Savoy Elementary in Southeast Washington have more than just making it to middle school on their minds. These kids are getting the opportunity to learn from special speakers like Yo Yo Ma and Michelle Obama.

"Most children don't get this experience," said Jahsiere Ellis, 5th grader. "And it's really good that I get this experience."

"Scandal" star Kerry Washington is partly to thank for attracting the high profile speakers. She adopted the D.C. school when it was named one of just eight schools in the country selected as part of President Obama's Turnaround Arts Initiative.

One of the reasons Savoy was selected was its ability to highlight the arts culture. One of the best examples of that is when they took 105 students to the National Portrait Gallery to perform a flash mob routine to Michael Jackson's "Thriller".

"When you dance, it helps me demonstrate my work better," explained Briana Sears, 4th grader. "You have to express it. Dancing helps you express how you feel."

And these dancers got the chance to bust a move in front of Washington when she visited last spring. And even though she's far from D.C., the actress always has her adopted students on her mind. Students say she sends them inspirational videos.

The initiative's focus is to make sure the arts are given just as much attention as math and science. Washington says that's something she's passionate about.

"Our dream is that she calls us one day and says I want to fly some of the kids out to L.A. and have them perform out there," said one student. "That would be the big one for us."