n-yarinauguration-012209 Direct from D.C. Schools pause for historic inauguration

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YARMOUTH — On Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., high school students started pouring into the hallways and down the stairs to claim a seat in the Performing Arts Center to watch Barack Obama take the presidential oath of office and deliver his inaugural address.
When Obama appeared on the big screen, students erupted into applause and cheers.
Almost every seat in the 500-person auditorium was filled with students and teachers who departed from their usual routine to watch the swearing in of the country’s first African American president.
Principal Ted Hall said students approached him before the holiday break about airing the inauguration live in the PAC.
“The students expressed an interest in witnessing this moment, not because of the hype of the last few days, but a while ago,” he said. “The students and faculty made the choice to make this time.”
Assistant Principal Amy Bongard said the school schedule for Jan. 20 was altered slightly, with lunches and the fourth block of classes juggled a bit.
“We are exposing the kids to the experience, but not framing it in any way,” she said. “We let them watch and then process the information how they want to.”
Students who didn’t want to participate were able to study in the library.
At the middle school, Principal Bruce Brann said each grade watched the inauguration together. He said lunch took place a little early, and classes were postponed while the speech took place.
Eighth-graders Jake Smith and McKenzie
Gray, members of student leadership at Harrison Middle School, said
they enjoyed watching the inauguration. While they said they were
not very involved in politics, they have friends who volunteered in the
Obama campaign.
“I haven’t heard him give any speeches before, but I really liked what he was talking about,” Gray said. “It was good.”
Smith, a former member of the middle school’s Environmental Club, said he thought it was important that Obama brought up the environment and energy.
Gray said it was good to discuss energy because it is an issue everyone will have to deal with in the future.
“It’s a world affair,” she said.
At the high school, seniors Margot Haines and Jeannie Evans, president and vice president, respectively, of the student council, said what they took away from President Obama’s inauguration was the importance of diversity.
In November, they said, they attended a student conference at the Coalition of Essential Schools in Charlotte, N.C. There, as white teens, they experienced what it was like to be in a minority.
“Meeting Hispanic, Asian and African American teens who were so affected by Obama’s nomination made me realize how important this election was for others and what it meant to them,” Evans said. “I also had the opportunity to vote this year, which personally made this election important.”
Haines said she also appreciated the opportunity to go to the conference in North Carolina.
“Having experienced diversity first hand is important coming from a small, white, affluent community,” she said. “It is reflective of the nation as a whole and something all of us don’t experience. I think having had the opportunity to watch the inauguration will encourage our student body to put a lot of energy into creating positive change.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net.

n-yarinauguration2-012209.JPGAnderson photo
Yarmouth High School students watch Barack Obama take the oath of office as the 44th U.S. president in the Performing Arts Center on Tuesday.