Biloxi students prepare to witness historic presidential inauguration

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Todd Boucher believes that lessons don't just come from textbooks or the TV.

"Does anybody know what the significance of today is?" Todd Boucher asked his AP Government students.

"OK. The new U.S. senators are being sworn in," Boucher told them.

As a Government teacher at Biloxi High School, Boucher encourages students to experience history. So he organized a trip to Washington DC, to watch Barack Obama become the first African-American to be sworn in as president of the United States.

"They're going to get to go to the inauguration and witness history in the making," said Boucher. "They're going to see things that we teach them every day in class."

Boucher knew the response would be strong.

"We had a flood of students that wanted to go," said Boucher. "There were a lot of students who weren't sure they wanted to go until they found out who won the election."

Twenty students signed-up and each had to come up with $1,500 to pay for the tour package. Gabrielle Hartwell was so eager to go, she raised the money by turning to a credit union, family and friends. She even wrote a letter to her church.

"I told them I wanted to see history-in-the-making and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Hartwell. "It was very exciting because at some point, I didn't think I was going to do it because it was kind of a lot of money."

That excitement is building as the students realize they will be among an expected five million people on the National Mall, feeling the energy of one of the biggest events of their lives.

"This is, I mean such a historic time, such a historic event," said Boucher. "I think people now realize the magnitude of this event."

Because of the huge crowd expected on January 20, the students will have to decide if they want to watch the swearing-in ceremony or the inaugural parade, but probably not both.

While in DC, they will get to see the different monuments, tour Mount Vernon, and attend a Youth Inaugural Ball.