Auburn students going to Obama’s inauguration


AUBURN — Destiny Scott voted for the first time in November, choosing Barack Obama.

On Monday she’ll be in Washington, D.C., watching Obama take the oath of office.

“It’s going to be amazing,” said Scott, 18. “It’s a great opportunity. Something that will never be done again.”

She and nine other Franklin Alternative School students and three chaperons were offered tickets to the inauguration by U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Maine Democrat. By Monday, supporters had raised $3,500 for expenses.

“I like history. It’s like I’m taking part in it,” said Amber Bunnell, 16, one of 10 students whose names were picked from a hat.

“It’s awesome,” said Tyler Smith, 17. “It feels like an honor.”

Michaud’s Chief of Staff Peter Chandler said his office gets lots of requests for inauguration tickets, but it only has 197 to give away.

A request from Franklin Alternative School history teacher Pamela Le stood out, Chandler said.

“The fact it was a group of young people, we factored that in,” he said. “It’s a chance for a group of kids to have a unique and exciting opportunity.”

It’s special for anyone to be at a presidential inauguration, but for a group of students who attend an alternative school, “it’s American history they’ll never forget,” Chandler said. “Congressman Michaud wanted to make it happen, particularly for these kids.”

Le heard about U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office holding a lottery for inauguration tickets. She sent a letter saying why her students should go.

“We didn’t win, but they wanted us to go so badly that they sent our names over to Michaud’s office,” Le said.

During the presidential campaign, her students paid attention, talked about the debates, the candidates, the issues. “We had a mock election,” Le said. “It was a spirited debate. We had kids register to vote for the first time.” Most of her students are Obama supporters, she said. “They want to see the man.”

She added, “They’ll be a part of it. It’ll be quite an experience for them.”

Taking her students to D.C. has been a dream of hers, Le said. “It’s a place where history comes alive. They can touch it, feel it, see it.”

Before dawn Sunday, the group will hop in two mini-vans and drive all day, reaching Washington in the afternoon, early enough to take in some historical sights, Le said.

They’ve been advised to dress warmly because they’ll be outside for hours, and to head to the White House at 9:30 a.m. The inauguration begins at noon. They’ll go through security and go to their assigned spots, where they will stand. “We’re right on the lawn in front of the pond,” said Franklin teacher and chaperon Kathy Saunders. The group will head home Monday afternoon.

Besides Scott, Bunnell and Smith, the students who are going are Tom Belanger, Brent Gagnon, Kyanna Edwards, Brianna Dyer, Zach Michaud, Brandan Cote and Rick Black.

Scott said she’s going to take “a million pictures.” Bunnell said she looked at the Hilton online and it’s impressive.

“I can’t wait for the adventure,” she said.

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