They were going to buy a sailboat. Instead, they changed the lives of 26 kids.

Marty Burbank was going to buy a sailboat.

He and his wife, Seon Chun-Burbank, have done well. The couple were the first in their families to go to college. Now, Marty is a Navy veteran and works as an elder care attorney. Seon is a college professor. The couple love the water and even tied the knot on a yacht.

Why not enjoy the spoils of their hard work and set their sights on the high seas?


Marty Burbank and Seon Chun-Burbank on their wedding day. Image via NBC News/YouTube.

But instead of buying a boat, the Burbanks decided to invest in their community.

Through church, the couple met Tessa Ashton, a kindergarten teacher at Rio Vista Elementary who was working with a classroom of English-language learners. For the past four years, Marty has volunteered and donated supplies and money to the Anaheim, California, elementary school and its teachers.

Image via NBC News/YouTube.

After hearing a sermon about charity, they crunched the numbers, and the choice was clear.

"For the cost of buying a boat and the maintenance and the storage over the next 12 years, I can put these kids through school, and that seemed like a better investment," Burbank told local news channel FOX 11.

And that's exactly what they did.

The couple pledged to pay for two years of community college and two years at a California state university, or the equivalent amount, for all 26 of Ashton's kindergarten students.

To receive the funds, each child has to complete a drawing or essay each year about what going to college means for their future and their family.

Image via NBC News/YouTube.

The price tag for the project is around $1 million.

For the Burbanks, it means delaying retirement and sticking to dry land a little longer.

"They say give until it hurts a little, and this hurts. But we feel it's the best investment we could make," he told CNN.

The Burbanks also gave each student an Indiana University shirt. It's Ashton's alma mater, and the school that the students discuss on "College Fridays." Image via NBC News/YouTube.

For the parents and families of the students, this announcement opens a world of possibilities.

But it shouldn't have taken an extreme act of kindness to make it happen.

Despite an increase in federal student aid and school scholarships, the proportion of recent high school graduates from low-income families who enroll in post-secondary programs has dropped significantly over the last eight years.

In 2013, 45.5% of low-income students enrolled in college, as opposed to 78.5% of students from high-income families.

Image via NBC News/YouTube.

While tuition plays a role, the net price (the grand total students actually pay, think fees, supplies, tuition) at two-year schools has actually decreased over the years, and has increased modestly at four-year institutions. But the perceived cost of college may be enough to keep some students from even pursuing the option.

So while this offer is life-changing and incredibly generous, it's not a silver bullet.

Marty never intended for the story to make national, or even local news, but now that it has, he's hoping to inspire others.

While most people can't afford to send a class of students to college (cough, cough, Michael Scott), those with and without means can donate supplies, resources, and their time to support kids in need. Whether you're donating a million bucks or 30 minutes of your time, every little bit helps.

Here's to the class of 2028, now the university-graduating class of 2032!

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GIF via NBC News/YouTube.

See the kids in action and hear the Burbanks' story in this video from NBC News.

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Today, I'm a 35-year-old man with a flame shaved into my beard. If the '80s movies I love so much are any indication, this is a sure sign I'm going through some kind of existential crisis. Next week, when the semester starts and I begin teaching again, it will not be strange if my colleagues start to worry about me just a little. A sports car or a neck-jerking pivot to physical fitness — that's an understandable response to the realization that life is fleeting. But a large meticulous flame carved out of facial hair? What does one do with that?

At this moment, though, I'm showing my face proudly to a woman wearing a swimsuit with a taco cat on it. We have only recently met, but she's telling me that she's so into my "fade" that she wants to kiss it. Then she does, blowing a raspberry into my cheek so hard that her hat falls off. Neither of us can stop laughing.

"Live Mas!" she yells with the excitement of someone who's never had trouble fully seizing the moment.

"Live Mas!" I shout back without any irony. There is no irony here in Palm Springs, where, for four days only, hundreds of people celebrate their love for Taco Bell.

Here, there's only swimming and hot sauce-themed leisure wear, and the warm pleasant feeling that comes from eating too much and knowing that you're with your own people. Even if the only thing that connects you is a love for a fast food giant that feeds you when you're hammered and shameless at 2 a.m.

We drank the Baja Blast! My Taco Bell fade and my friend's specialty manicure!Mark Shrayber

What does it mean to Live Mas? This is a question I am forced to ask myself over and over during my 24-hour stay at "The Bell," where I have stowed away as a friend's plus-one. We are, of course, both politely pretending that I'm a full-on guest with all the perks that entails, but we also both know that I wouldn't be here eating unlimited quesadillas poolside without her.

So maybe that's the first thing Live Mas means: To build strong lifelong connections which you can, with some luck, exploit to your benefit. :) :) :)

But this is too cynical an interpretation, because everyone here is so happy. Happy that they've gotten a reservation; happy that they can cool off in a room themed after an iconic Mountain Dew Drink, and happy that they can share their own personal story of what Taco Bell means to them. (Though there's no formal essay contest — I've checked.)

Me: This room won't be that cool. Also me: OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE COOLEST ROOM I'VE EVER BEEN IN!!!Mark Shrayber

Snatches of this story float around the "Fire" pool, where all the entertainment is concentrated: One couple canceled their trip to Prague because "Prague will always be there" — a brave stance considering climate change; another met last year on Tinder after the girlfriend's Taco Bell senior photos went viral; at the opening ceremony on Thursday, where sauce packets were cut instead of a ribbon, a city official brought others to tears with both her Taco Bell fashion and a memory of how her parents would feed an entire family with 19-cent-tacos from the first-ever Taco Bell in Downey, California.

Oh, I forgot one: The guy who skipped out on Prague? He got a giant bell shaved into the side of his head, so he might have to miss out on a black-tie event happening later this week. But it's all good. Bring on the nacho fries.

I make fast friends with four women who are here for a bachelorette party, the bride overwhelmed with good vibes and prosecco. This year, for her 30th, she rented a party bus. Inside? $100 worth of Taco Bell that her fiancee was worried might not be consumed.

"But little did he know," she shouts in the hot tub where we're "cooling off" after a long day of 108-degree sunning, "we ate it all!"

A bachelorette party and a birthday! We're really living it up (but also staying hydrated.)Mark Shrayber

Others whoop it up at the twist, but we all get it. Though there's no essay contest, I don't mind telling you that when my first boyfriend dumped me 14 years ago, I stuffed my face with chalupas. When I lost a job I really loved four years ago, I once ordered so much Taco Bell that the delivery app of my choice informed me I'd exceeded the maximum number of items they could comfortably fill in one order. We get it — though none of us can truly explain it.

There are, if you look at the The Bell from a literary perspective, many other writers who deserve this experience more than me. They could talk about the blue of the pool. Or the insouciance of youth. Draw parallels between marketing stunts such as this and the end-stage capitalism. Or envision a "Demolition Man" future where Taco Bell is fine dining and none of us know how to use the three shells in the bathroom to get ourselves clean.

And I wish these writers could be here to paint you these landscapes, but what you've got is me, a literal Taco Bell super-fan, and what I'm doing is eating and getting sunburned and taking a synchronized swimming class with the Aqualillies, who refer to themselves as "the world's most glamorous water ballet entertainment," but have very little idea of what to do with 10 eager recruits who can't stay afloat or on beat.


G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S!!Photo courtesy of Taco Bell.

"It's okay," one of the instructors comforts me just before the Tacolilies (the name of our "team") are invited to perform our watery version of "Senorita" — which was supposed to be two minutes long, then 1:15, and has now been judiciously cut down, due to talent, to about 45 seconds — in the bigger pool. "We regularly teach five-year-olds. And you're doing much better."

Usually, I would take offense at such blatant reads, but today I'm unbothered. I'll continue to be so right until I get home and discover that I've left all my electronics on United Flight 5223 (if anyone wants to get them back to me). And even then, I rage at myself for all of five seconds before checking that I've still got what's important: A certificate that says I did not drown while doing water ballet.

It's still there. As is my phone, which is blowing up with messages from people who took pictures of me in what Taco Bell calls its "power suit," and which is best described as "cult outfit, but kinda make it fashion." I bought my husband one, too, and I look forward to the argument we're going to have about holiday cards later.

This is "Live Mas."

I've never been so happy to match with someone else in my life. MaMark Shrayber

Or maybe it's the moment another stranger tells me that we'll be friends forever. Such friendships are forged quickly when you've got less than 24 hours to make lifelong connections and I'm pleased to get the full experience.

"We may never meet again," he says while we're swimming, "but we'll always have this time together."

Then we establish that he lives just across the park from me in San Francisco.

"Aw, man," he says, floating away to take pictures of the people he came with, "I've got lots of close friends I never see because they live across that damn park."

But the sentiment holds.

We Live Mas it on.

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