Tuesday’s inauguration for President-elect Barack Obama promises to be a very historic day in our nation’s history.
For a delegation of Glenwood Community High School students, the swearing-in ceremony will also be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The students will be among the four million people expected to converge on Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of America’s first African-American president.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said GCHS junior Cassie Stewart. “It’s history in the making. It’s our first black president.”
Stewart is one of 13 GCHS students who have been looking forward to Inauguration Day since last spring. That’s when history teacher Eric Smith made GCHS students aware of an opportunity to visit Washington during the inauguration of our next president. The trip is being coordinated by World Strides, a firm that arranges educational trips for students across the country.
“This particular trip is geared specifically for high schoolers,” Smith said. “I opened it up to all of the high school students. We’ve got a variety going – sophomores, juniors and seniors.”
Smith and his students will spend five days in Washington, flying out of Eppley Airfield on Saturday and returning next Wednesday, Jan. 21.
They’ll have a full itinerary. In addition to witnessing Obama take his oath of office, they’ll visit many of Washington’s museums, memorials and attractions.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the Holocaust Museum and being able to experience the president being sworn in,” Jessica Holher said.
Rod Mendenhall said he’s looking forward to seeing the sites, but is also excited about flying in an airplane for the first time.
The biggest concern Smith and his students have about their trip is the potential for cold weather. They’ll be spending several hours outdoors on Inauguration Day.
“That’s going to be a busy day. We’ll be doing a lot of walking,” Smith said. “We’re going to leave the hotel at roughly 4:30 in the morning. We might have to walk anywhere from one mile to three miles to get to the public viewing area.”
Because of the large crowds expected in Washington on Tuesday, a variety of security measures will be taken. The students have been told to leave their backpacks and camera bags in their hotel rooms.
“Inauguration Day security is going to be crazy,” Smith said. “They might change their mind where they want people to go in a heartbeat, so we have to be prepared for that.”
Cellular telephone usage will also be restricted.
“The cell towers might be shut off,” Smith said. “If there’s several million people there and everybody’s on the phone – sending texts or taking pictures – it will trash their system. There won’t be a lot of texting or talking going on with the cell phones, but if there’s an emergency, they’ll have satellite telephones available.”
The Glenwood students were given the choice of attending either the swearing-in ceremony or the inaugural parade. They’ve elected to see Obama take his oath of office.
Tuesday night, they’ll get dressed up and celebrate with the rest of Washington.
“The kids even get to go to an inugural ball for all the high schoolers there,” Smith said. “It’s a dance and kind of a social time for kids to meet kids from other states.”
The GCHS students traveling to Washington all had to come up with about $1,700 to cover their expenses. They’ve taken part in a variety of fundraising activities over the past several months, doing everything from picking sweet corn and grapes to working the parking lots at GCHS sporting events.