[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/24/sotn.bethea/art.girl.speech.afp.gi.jpg caption="South Carolina student Ty'Sheoma Bethea was invited to the speech after she wrote a letter to lawmakers."]
(CNN) - Her school has become a symbol of the kind of crumbling infrastructure that President Obama hopes his stimulus bill will improve.
But on Tuesday, Ty'Sheoma Bethea became the face of the issue, when she joined first lady Michelle Obama as her guest for the president's first speech to a joint session of Congress.
The White House invited Ty'Sheoma, a student at the J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, South Carolina, after a letter she sent lawmakers appealing for help rebuilding her school made its way to the president.
The eighth-grader reportedly boarded her first plane with her mother, Dina Leach, from South Carolina to Washington to attend the speech.
The eighth-grader was inspired to write the letter by Obama, who mentioned her school in his first presidential news conference on February 9. After visiting the school, he referenced J.V. Martin as evidence of educational institutions that would benefit from school construction funding in his $787 billion stimulus package.