Three South Mississippi students attend inauguration ceremony

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It was a day of historic firsts in the life of a country and in the lives of these three South Mississippi high schoolers.

"For me, it was very special and historic because no one in my family has ever been to an inauguration. Just to be in the midst of all those people and be in the atmosphere was great," says Kevonce McDonald, Gautier High School.

"It didn't really hit me until I got there. It was extraordinary; when you got there, it was like wow! I'm here," says Imani Lombard, Gulfport High School.

While the inauguration was the highlight of their trip, the three say the rest of their experience was nothing short of incredible from the dignitaries they met and the stories from a not too distant past.

"General Colin Powell was one of the people we met. He told us about the time he had come home from serving and went into a hamburger place to buy a hamburger. The guy told him he had to get it from the back," says Lombard.

They also met dignataries like Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the first blind man to climb Mount Everest Erik Weihenmayer.

"He (Erik Weihenmayer) talked so much about hope and knowing you can do something. He said it's not seeing; it's believing. You have to believe before you see. I thought it was really great. He started crying, and I almost broke down with him," says Tai Juzang-McFadden.

Inauguration day no doubt left a unforgettable imprint on the lives of the three young men and so did another experience to lesser degree, the January weather in D.C.

"We had scarves, ear warmers and thermals," says Lombard.

"They said if you didn't have on at least three layers you were going to freeze. I had on three layers, and I still froze," says McDonald.

After their experience in D.C., the three have returned home inspired to lead in their communities the same way they look to President Obama to do for their country.

"We were chosen for a reason, and I think that if you're given a gift, you should use it.  If our gift is to lead and inspire other people, then that's what we should do," says McDonald.

Kevonce McDonald attends Gautier High School while Tai Juzang-McFadden and Imani Lombard attend Gulfport High. They were joined by other South Mississippi students involved in the program for the trip. The Junior National Leadership Conference is under the Congressional Youth Leadership Council Foundation.