Central students, teacher travel to Washington for inaugural festivities
She’d seen posters promoting the D.C. trip, but Nicolette Geron thought she had to be in a specific class to be eligible to go.
When the Naperville Central High School senior found out the trek to the nation’s capital for Inauguration Day was open to everybody, she jumped at the chance.
“I’m really open to new experiences and wanted to try something new,” said Geron, one of eight Central students who went with social studies teacher Donna Mohn to witness Barack Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in for a second presidential term. The group left at 8 a.m. Saturday and flew back home Tuesday.
Mohn said she began publicizing the trip about a year ago, long before anyone knew who would win on Nov. 6 and be sworn in on the Capitol steps Monday morning.
Minas Rasoulis knew he wanted to go, and to have the best view possible of the event. Rasoulis, a sophomore, talked it up with a friend who also planned to go. They agreed their representatives in Congress should be able to help, so they sent emails to newly seated Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
“We just described where we’re from, why we were interested in going,” Rasoulis said. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect that (Foster) would give us nine tickets.”
The group was seated in front of the reflecting pool at the inauguration, which drew an estimated 800,000 people.
“With the crowds, the view was still limited, but to be that close, and the energy of the crowds — we were shoulder-to-shoulder with our best friends for the day,” Mohn said.
The significance of the occasion was not lost on the teens. Despite the obstructed view, Rasoulis was moved just to be part of the crowd.
“It felt amazing to be there for this event,” he said. “Even though it’s (Obama’s) second term, it felt wonderful to be so close to the action. It was historical. You could just feel it.”
The group spent Tuesday evening at their own inaugural ball, thrown by tour operators EF Tours, with a couple hundred other young visitors. And they made other stops in the city, as tourists often do.
“I really liked the Vietnam Memorial,” said Geron, who found the 19 towering statues that comprise the Korean War Veterans Memorial impressive as well.
The group visited an array of museums, and went to Arlington National Cemetery. And on Tuesday morning, they spent some time with Foster and some of his staff.
“That was awesome. His staff gave us a tour of the Capitol building, totally unexpected,” Mohn said. “Because it was led by his staff, we got a little more than the normal tour.”
The Central students ducked into both the House and Senate chambers, relishing another taste of history.
“You just sit there, thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is what I’m looking at,’” Mohn said.
Geron was pleased to have seen so much in so little time, and to have made some great new friends.
She and the only other female member of the Central delegation were put in a room with two girls from Louisiana, and they all hit it off well, she said.
If anything, the tour went a bit too fast for her liking.
“I really wish that we could stay longer and see everything in detail,” Geron said. “But that would take years.”