Bobcats welcome Obama to second term
RADFORD — More than 70 Radford High School students joined singer Kelly Clarkson, pro basketball legend Bill Russell and former president Bill Clinton in a historic event Monday in Washington, D.C.
Government students and their 15 adult chaperones made the more-than-four-hour road trip to the nation’s Capitol to join an estimated 1 million people watching in person the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
“It was so overwhelming how many people were there and the chaos of it all,” said senior Megan Mitchell.
“There was so much energy in that crowd. Every time something would happen, everyone would be screaming and waving flags,” classmate Caleigh Shaffer added.
Government teachers Elaine Argabrite and Wayne Pridgen began planning the trip over the summer. The group departed from Radford High School on Saturday at noon and returned Monday night.
Pridgen said it was the seventh time the school had been represented at a presidential inauguration, and each trip to the historic event began with a simple task.
“Our goal is to take 75 of them and bring 75 back. … We’ve never lost one,” Pridgen said.
In order to participate, not only did the students have to cover the $300 cost, they also had to create a U.S. government-themed art project, Argabrite said.
The students arrived Saturday evening and spent Sunday touring various museums and sites before taking in the play “Shear Madness” that evening at the Kennedy Center. Pridgen said the highlight of the show was one of the actors appearing on stage in a Radford T-shirt the students had given the stage crew.
“As one of my girls said, he was a real hunk,” Pridgen joked.
Monday, the group’s day proved to be a little more hectic.
“We were standing from about 8:15 until 4:30 that day,” senior Matt Turk said. “We didn’t eat [during that time], either.”
Turk recounted that the group left their hotel Monday morning about 7 a.m., took a bus to RFK Stadium, and then walked close to four miles to the viewing point they estimate was just more than a quarter mile from the Capitol’s stage.
The students said they could clearly see the podium from their vantage point; however, most preferred to watch the ceremony on a large Jumbotron near their standing point.
Though many of the students admitted that some aspects of the day were grueling, most maintained that the national historic event was also a landmark event in their own lives.
“Not a lot of people get this opportunity. Even though a million people seems like a lot, if you compare it to the rest of the United States, most people aren’t ever going to get this opportunity to be there in person,” said senior Neha Desai.
“We’re never going to get an opportunity to go to one of these again, especially in like a big group with all of our friends,” added senior Shelby Brooks.
The teachers seemed happy to have been able to help provide many of their students with a chance to witness history, along with a chance to see firsthand the topics they study throughout the year.
“It’s an opportunity to see them outside of the classroom, and if you believe in going through the process of hands-on [learning], this is perfectly hands-on,” Pridgen said.
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