Blaine students recount experience at inauguration

Published on Thu, Mar 12, 2009 by Marisa Willis

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Blaine high school freshman Jaclyn Adams was a part of history when she attended the inauguration of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America on January 20. Adams traveled with a group of more than 15,000 students involved in a 5-day program with the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference (PYIC).

Adams said being a part of the estimated 1.8 million people who packed the National Mall was something she will never forget.

“The speech was really interesting because it just kind of hit me how historical it all was,” Adams said. “I knew I was going to remember it for a really long time.”

PYIC students attended conferences with speakers such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Vice President Al Gore.
When she returned home, Adams said she felt very privileged to be able to share her first-hand experience with her teachers who watched the events on television.

Though Adams was incredibly happy with her experience, her mother Julie was slightly disappointed with the trip’s organization. Julie said some students missed Obama’s inaugural address and the parade because they were stuck on buses or lost in the large crowd.

She also said correspondence with PYIC prior to the trip led parents to believe their students had reserved seating for the inauguration. Instead, Jaclyn and her friends listened to the President’s speech over a loud speaker.

“It was a whole different experience than what we were expecting,” Julie Adams said.

Though some aspects of the trip were not what she expected, Adams said she was not overwhelmed by the crowds and actually liked the independence. She said she felt being able to maneuver through all the people showed great leadership skills, which is what the PYIC is all about.

“All the people were together and united for the new president,” Adams said. “It was a very cool thing to see.”

Blaine High School sophomore Morgan Abbey also traveled to Washington, D.C. with PYIC to attend the inauguration. Despite the crowds and confusion, Abbey’s mother Teresa Abbey said her daughter still had an amazing time.

Some students who attended the event, or parents who paid the $3,000 fee, were very upset with the program and are threatening to file a class action lawsuit against Envision EMI, the Virginia-based firm that owns PYIC and other leadership programs for students.

For former President George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2005, Adams said the PYIC only had 800 students involved in the program. Adams said she thinks PYIC took on too many students and was not prepared for the large crowds at the National Mall.

Blaine high school senior Peter Wagner attended with the People to People program. Former Blaine high school student Clayton Swansen, 26, a Secret Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, also watched the historical events on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building.