Local teens to attend Obama inauguration

Sunday, January 18, 2009
From left, Alyssa Ruopp, Megan Keesee, Lauren Bishop, Janna Trautwein and Meg Goodman are area high schoolers attending an Inaugural Conference in Washington.

When Barack Obama is sworn in as this nation's 44th president, Jackson High School student Megan Keesee will be in Washington, D.C., to witness history in the making. She and five other local high school juniors left Saturday for the events.

"More than any other inauguration, I think this is going to be a changing point in history. I really look forward to being a part of that and seeing Obama sworn into office," said Keesee, 16. "Someday I can tell my grandchildren that I was there."

The students are participating in the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. The conference is offered every four years, giving young people the opportunity to see the events surrounding the presidential inauguration. It is intended to give them a deeper understanding of the electoral process.

PYIC director Grant Burrall said 89 Missourians are among the 7,350 high school students attending this year. Keesee is joined on the trip by Alyssa Ruopp, who attends Notre Dame Regional High School, and Central High School students Meg Goodman, Lauren Bishop and Janna Trautwein.

The girls flew to Washington on Saturday for workshops and seminars leading up to the inauguration. Keynote speakers include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, former vice president Al Gore and former secretary of state Gen. Colin Powell. Keesee said she is looking forward to meeting the men.

"To get to talk to these people and be around them is exciting," she said. "Colin Powell was the first African-American secretary of state, and he worked under President Reagan."

Luke Russert, who served as an NBC news correspondent during the 2008 presidential election and is the son of this late newsman Tim Russert, is also among the keynote speakers.

Even though students received invitations to the PYIC before Obama was elected, Janna Trautwein said she was optimistic he would be the candidate she saw sworn in.

"I was very hopeful it would be Obama, even though it would have been fun either way," she said. "I imagined how awesome it would be to go, but didn't know I actually would."

In addition to the inauguration, the students will watch of the inaugural parade, have private access to the Smithsonian Institution and attend the conference's Black Tie Gala Inaugural Ball.

"Obama is welcome at the ball, but we don't know if he's coming. If he did, I would cry," Trautwein said.

Keesee pointed out that entertainment at the ball will be provided by former American Idol contestant and Grammy-nominated musician Chris Daughtry.

"I bought a dress specifically for this event," she said.

The students received invitations to the conference as part of their involvement with the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.

CYLC is an international organization for young people, with members chosen based on their academic performance and leadership potential. The program is designed to inspire teens to reach their full leadership potential through a variety of conferences, including the five-day PYIC.

With many Americans scrambling to get tickets and reservations, the local students are part of a program that plans the trip. But the conference does come with a price. It costs more than $3,000, not including the round-trip airfare.

Participants such as Meg Goodman and Alyssa Ruopp made a couple of sacrifices for the trip.

"I used my Christmas and birthday, and probably next Christmas, too," Ruopp said.

Goodman said she got a job over the summer to split the costs with her parents.

"I agreed to pay for half of it. In fact, I still owe them money," she said.

But for teenagers like Goodman, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for her, especially since she is wanting to go into politics as a profession," her mother, Teri Goodman, said.

For more information about CYLC or the PYIC, visit www.cylc.org.

Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference

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