Lakewood student witnesses inauguration

Lakewood High School senior Jesica LaPlant attended the presidential inauguration. -
Lakewood High School senior Jesica LaPlant attended the presidential inauguration.
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While flying 3,000 miles east, enduring the cold East Coast winter and being packed amongst 1.8 million Americans might sound like a turn-off to some, millions jumped at the opportunity to experience history — the inauguration of our first black president.

Among the throngs of Americans who stood at the Washington Mall was Jesica LaPlant, a senior at Lakewood High School, who witnessed history.

“It was an amazing and enriching experience that I will hold on to forever,” LaPlant said. “It was cool being there. I was touched by the emotions when people started crying for the announcement of our 44th president. I’ll admit, I started crying too.”

LaPlant, who supported Obama during the presidential campaign, was speechless when she realized she was going to witness him being sworn in.

“I actually didn’t know who was going to win at the time I decided go,” LaPlant said. “I had the plan to go one year before the inauguration actually happened. I didn’t know who was going to swear in as our next president. At the time Hillary Clinton was a front-runner, and I thought I’d be witnessing our first woman president. It was just the inauguration. I didn’t care who would be president. The fact that I was there was enough for me.”

LaPlant previously attended a Congressional Student Leadership Conference on medicine a few years ago. As an alum, she was chosen to attend special moments in history with other high school students from around the country, including both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and the inauguration.

To be chosen was only the first step. LaPlant still had to dish out about $4,000 to go. That price included the program’s fee, airfare, lodging and food. The teen didn’t just expect her parents to pay for her moment in history.

“I paid half, through fundraising, and my parents gave the rest,” LaPlant explained. “I fundraised for about a year.”

LaPlant raised money through garage sales, car washes and even a spaghetti dinner and auction from which proceeds went to her trip.

There to greet her were 8,000 other students. The program didn’t just send her to the inauguration to sight see then go home. Some key guest speakers for the students were former Vice President Al Gore, former secretary of state Colin Powell, CNN correspondent Lisa Lang, historian and NBC political analyst Doris Kearns Goodwin and Oprah.

LaPlant said she was glad she saw history in the making.

“I also want to thank all the people in the community who helped me with fundraising for my chance to view history,” she added.

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