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Hampstead students prepare for Obama's inauguration

Union Leader Correspondent

January 18. 2013 10:49PM

HAMPSTEAD - Hampstead Middle School students witnessed history four years ago when they attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Now, a new group of middle-schoolers is preparing to follow their path to Washington to see Monday's inauguration as Obama begins his second term.

"When you read a book you only remember little bits, but when you see something like this it's something you'll remember for the rest of your life," said Hampstead eighth-grader Derek Goulet, who is one of 30 students planning to attend the inauguration after they received tickets with help from U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen.

The students applied for the tickets in October by writing essays about how the experience would help them and change their lives, and how they would share that with the school community after they returned.

Katie Wolff, an eighth-grade English and history teacher, organized the trip during Obama's first inauguration and again this time.

She said she started thinking about it last spring and then was approached by a couple of students in the fall who went on the first trip. They explained how the experience changed the course of their studies. One student wrote a college essay about the experience and was just accepted to Yale, Wolff said.

"I'm hopeful for them to see that the political process is pretty amazing and that kids from New Hampshire can go down and witness history and be part of the process and understand the process," she said.

The students, who paid for the trip themselves, will be joined by six students from Pinkerton Academy in Derry, eight faculty members and 12 parents.

The applications for the tickets were made in October, before Obama won reelection.

"We really wanted students who wanted to go for the experience and the history and not for the candidate," said Maria Soraghan, 13.

Christina Giannopoulos, 13, said students learned they would receive the tickets about a week or two after they applied. All of those who wanted a ticket ended up receiving one.

"Our stomachs were turning while we were in the classroom," Giannopoulos said, recalling her nervousness as she waited for word on whether she would be able to attend.

The students and chaperones will board a bus Saturday and head to Philadelphia. They'll spend the night in Baltimore and then head to Washington on Sunday, where they plan to visit the Lincoln Memorial, a Smithsonian museum, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and other sites.

"On Monday we'll be up really early," Christina said.

The students will head home on Tuesday.

Nick Bortone, 14, said he's looking forward to the experience.

"He was the first African-American president to be elected and now has the honor of serving a second term in office. It means a lot to African-Americans and Democrats," Bortone said.

As soon as she heard about the chance to attend the inauguration, Cat Warnock, 14, said she told her mother that it was something she just had to do.

"I think it's such a great opportunity. We get to see history as it's happening," she said.

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