30 Kennewick students attending inauguration

By Sara Schilling, Herald staff writerNovember 18, 2008 

About 30 Kennewick students won't have to settle for watching history unfold on TV when the country's first black president is sworn into office in January.

They're traveling to Washington, D.C., to tour the nation's capital and watch Barack Obama be inaugurated as the 44th U.S. president.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Ha'ani Ritter, 13, an eighth-grader at Highlands Middle School.

Two groups of students from the Kennewick district -- from Highlands and Kamiakin High School-- are making the trip.

They're going through the student travel organization WorldStrides and are expected to visit places such as the Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery and Smithsonian museums.

They'll be able to earn a school credit for the trip. But that's not why they're excited to go, several said.

Collin Bampton, 15, a sophomore at Kamiakin, followed the presidential election closely and wanted Obama to win. He liked the Illinois senator's ideas about the economy and felt he represented a new course for America.

"I think that's what we really need right now," he said.

Brooklynn Watts, 16, a junior at Kamiakin, supported Arizona Sen. John McCain. Still, she traded in receiving birthday and Christmas presents from her family to pay for the trip.

"It'll definitely be one of those things you look back on and tell your grandkids about," she said.

The trip costs about $2,000 per student. Some of the Highlands students did fundraisers earlier this year, including a pizza dinner and auction.

They're getting more excited as the five-day trip nears, said teacher Heather Shulman, who's helping lead the trip.

"There's only so much you can learn from a textbook," she said. "For the kids to really see history, the importance of it, what each of the memorials mean -- it'll be more personal to them."

The Highlands group includes a few high school freshmen who went to the middle school last year. The Kamiakin crew also has some students from other schools.

Sabiha Khan, who's leading that group, said she hopes her students gain a greater appreciation for politics and public services through what they'll see and hear.

The Jan. 20 inauguration is expected to draw at least 1 million people and there's been a great demand for tickets. The office of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, for example, stopped taking ticket requests because more than 6,000 individual requests have been made.

The office expects to receive about 350 tickets for the ceremony, said a news release.

It's believed that Kennewick is the only Tri-City school district with groups headed to the inauguration.

Kamiakin junior Chris McClain, 16, said he didn't follow the presidential election closely. But he didn't want to miss the chance to witness the new president being sworn-in.

"It'll be a piece of history that won't be repeated," he said.

The Highlands group still is taking donations for the trip. They can be sent to Heather Shulman at Highlands Middle School, 425 S. Tweedt, Kennewick.

w Sara Schilling: 582-1402; sschilling@ tricityherald.com

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