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Totem Middle School students watch inauguration in person

MARYSVILLE — They left the evening of Jan. 17 and were back home by Jan. 25, but for the students, staff and parents of Totem Middle School, their week-long trip will remain one of the most memorable moments of their lives.

The 32 seventh- and eighth-graders were accompanied by four school staff members and a number of parents, acting as chaperones, when they went to Washington D.C., to witness firsthand the Jan. 21 inauguration of President Barack Obama. The group had enough time to tour through the nation's capitol and its surrounding area, where they stopped by the Smithsonian Museum and Mount Vernon, as well as New York City, where they visited Times Square and "Ground Zero."

"It was kind of a whirlwind for everyone," said Jennifer Schmidt, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Totem Middle School, who deemed the inauguration her favorite part of the trip. "It felt like such a high part of history. Being part of that momentum, and the joyous celebration that was there, with 2 million people there, you would think there would be some angry people there, but I didn't see any angry people there. It was quite spectacular."

Schmidt noted that the students enjoyed attending the inaugural ball, where "they got to do lots of dancing and act like kids," as well as seeing sights such as Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Washington, D.C., and shopping in New York.

"I really hope that the kids learned more about the world that they live in, not just Marysville and what's offered here," Schmidt said. "We have a lot of great things here in our town, but there's a lot more great things to explore and learn about, as far as connecting what they learned in school to their day-to-day activities."

Malie Levinsky, a seventh-grade student at Totem Middle School, echoed Schmidt's hopes, as well as the reactions of other students who went on the trip, by expressing her surprise at the sheer scope of the events they witnessed.

"I wasn't expecting how many people were at the inauguration," Levinsky said. "It was packed."

While a number of students wished they'd worn warmer clothes to the ceremony, all of those interviewed by The Marysville Globe recommended such a trip to others. Levinsky appreciated the fact that the trip's busy schedule still gave them time to relax, and she came away from the inauguration optimistic about the opportunities that it implied for all Americans.

"[Obama] was the first black president, and it meant that a lot of the people who were different religions and different ethnicities were able to be proud of what they were, because someone who had a different color of skin was able to become president."

"I would highly recommend any trip like this to anyone who wants to brave it," Schmidt said. "It's a lot of work, but it really does pay off, and it's a great experience, as a teacher, as a chaperone and as a student."

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