KENNEWICK -- A pair of high school students from Kennewick got a surprise up-close look at the political process -- along with a free lunch -- while attending a student conference last week.
Ashley Bronson and Breanne Short, both 17-year-old seniors at Kamiakin High, were in Bellevue for the fall leadership conference of Distributive Education Clubs of America, a nonprofit that trains students for careers in marketing and business.
While leaving one of the DECA events Oct. 25, the students passed a long line of people outside the Hyatt Regency hotel. They asked a woman seated by the door what the fuss was about and were told that first lady Michelle Obama was inside for a campaign event, Bronson said.
Tickets for the Sen. Patty Murray fundraiser cost $75-150, Seattle newspapers reported, but the girls were undaunted.
"We really wanted to get into this," Bronson said. "We wanted to hear what kind of speaker she was."
When the woman at the table asked where they were from, the girls said they were Kamiakin seniors. The woman's face lit up -- she was a Kamiakin alumna.
Moments later, the young women found themselves seated at a table in the center of the room, enjoying "a five-star lunch," Bronson said.
When the speeches were over, the girls managed to get to the front of the throng waiting for the president's wife, and called out her name.
To their great surprise, it worked. Surrounded by Secret Service agents, the first lady came over.
"We were both shocked," Bronson said. "I think the first thing I said was my name."
Obama chatted briefly with the teens. "She seemed approachable and really nice," Bronson said.
And then they were given permission to pose for pictures with Obama and her security detail.
Standing out in the crowd because of their age likely helped.
"There were only about four kids in the audience," Bronson said.