Patriotic pupils eye inauguration1/22/09

Observer photo by Tim Simard
Swift House student Izacco Lozon sports his patriotic best during President Obama’s inauguration Tuesday. See story below.

Patriotic pupils eye inauguration1/22/09

Jan. 22, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

In the minutes before President Barack Obama took the oath of office on Tuesday, the hallways of Williston Central School were silent. Students sat raptly in front of television screens in several classrooms, witnessing history in the making.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Students in Williston Central School’s Harbor House play Inauguration Bingo on Tuesday.

Obama, formerly a senator from Illinois, was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. He became the first black man to hold the country’s highest office, and students recognized and celebrated the achievement by watching the Inauguration Day ceremonies.

“This is one of the biggest days for America,” said Madison Bourdeau, a student in Harbor House.

Mia Deprince, also of Harbor House, said Obama was her “favorite person” and seemed at a loss for words about his presidency and the message of hope he brings to the country. But when she finally found her voice, she used one of Obama’s favorite words.

“It’ll definitely be a change,” Deprince said, smiling.

District Principal Walter Nardelli said events were taking place across all houses in Williston Central and Allen Brook schools, and the district was encouraging students to wear red, white and blue.

Harbor House student Chris Mallow won the house’s unofficial best costume prize. He wore a homemade American flag t-shirt, with accompanying pants and hat. Before Obama was sworn in, Mallow said he couldn’t wait for the inauguration to begin.

“I like the fact that you’ll be able to tell your kids about it in the future,” Mallow said.

Mallow’s friend and fellow Harbor House student Collin Osbahr agreed. He said it’s a day he’ll never forget.

“I can say I saw it on TV at school,” Osbahr said.

Harbor House teacher Jessica Contois said her students were looking forward to Inauguration Day since Obama was elected in November. She said many realize Obama will be the president for the next four to eight years, and some of them will be able to vote for him in the next election.

“They know this is history,” Contois said.

Inauguration Day also acted as a history lesson for Contois’ class. Students played Inauguration Bingo, where they had to identify politicians and dignitaries present at the event. Another bingo game was set up for students to identify key words brought up in Obama’s speech. Contois said prizes would be given out to the winners.

When the oath of office was concluded and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said, “Congratulations, Mr. President,” students watching in the kiva at Swift House broke into applause. There were cheers and even some tears from teachers and staff.

Students also stood at attention when Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were sworn in. Many sang the National Anthem at the conclusion of the festivities.

Obama spoke at length of the challenges facing the country in the coming years, saying all Americans will need to work together for a better future.

“We must begin again the work of remaking America,” Obama said in his speech.

The message wasn’t lost on students. Swift House student Izacco Lozon, who wore a shirt and tie and painted his face for the occasion, said he liked Obama’s speech, calling it “pretty cool to watch.”

“It’s nice to know we have a new president,” Lozon said.

Swift House student Jack Workman, who wore an Obama campaign shirt, helped campaign for the president last year. He said if he had been able to vote, he would have cast his ballot for Obama.

“He makes me feel very patriotic,” Workman said.

Watching alongside students was paraeducator Neil Preston. He said he would never forget this Inauguration Day and where he was when Obama took the oath of office. He believes the students of today understand the importance of the moment and what this will mean for the rest of their lives.

“There is a true sense of hopefulness and a true sense of empowerment for the youth of today,” Preston said.


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