Newark Middle School seventh- and eighth-graders recently witnessed history when traveled to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
Sixth- and eighth-grade social studies teacher Lisa Eakins has not only helped organize but has attended four presidential inaugurations with students since 1997.
Eakins, social studies supervisor at NMS, spearheaded the first student trip to Washington, D.C., two decades ago, and watched with students and staff chaperones as Bill Clinton was sworn in as president of the U.S. for a second term in 1997. She attended the first inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001, the second inauguration of Barack Obama in 2013 and most recently alongside 46 students as Trump was sworn in as the 45th president.
This most recent visit was the sixth consecutive trip NMS students have attended.
“We can talk about a presidential inauguration in a social studies classroom, but to witness it in person, to be part of the energy in the crowd, that’s what makes this trip unique,” Eakins said.
The NMS contingent had a great view of the proceedings as they stood near one of the jumbotron TVs at a midway point on the National Mall.
Seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher Matt Klemann, who advised Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, served as co-adviser with Eakins in 2013 and 2017. Chaperones this year included seventh-grade math teacher Scott Briggs, sixth-grade math teacher Jason Dentel, seventh-grade English teacher Danielle Ohlsen and seventh-grade social studies teacher Christine Jacobs.
“There is no better classroom for our kids on Inauguration Day than the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to be a living part of history in the making and getting to experience a major part of our political process in action,” Klemann said. “All of the chaperones were honored and happy to be able to provide this opportunity for our kids. The kids were awesome on the trip and we were extremely impressed with how engaged they were in learning as much as they could from each of our destinations. We couldn’t be more proud of how well they represented their families, community and Newark Middle School.”
Besides attending and enjoying the inaugural swearing-in ceremony, the trip included tours of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Ford’s Theatre and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center National Air and Space Museum; visits to the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument; and a dinner cruise and mock inaugural ball aboard the Spirit of Washington on the Potomac River.
The students attending the trip were eighth-graders Arika Blaisdell, Alexandra Briggs, Jaston Brooks, Kalyna Bryant, Jack Comella, Rachel George, Michael Hermenet, Meghan Johnson, Adam Lombardi, Haley Miller, Anna Renzi, Kristy Sulkowski, Simon VerMeersch, Kylar Vermeulen and Jackson Vermeulen; and seventh-graders Stevie Brown, Faith Clerveau, James Crawford, Chariah Cunningham, Isaiah Dishaw, Allison Exton, Zoe Fisher, Benjamin Fisher, Jace Fredericksen, Jenna Havert, Tyler Horton, Trent Horton, Amber Johnson, Madison Jorgensen, Emma Kuhn, Emily Lang, Kylie Lewis, Cody Luther, Zachary Mallette, Megan Napoleon, Aiden Natale, Michael Oberdorf, Ethan Perrone, Kaleigh Pettit, Jacob Rodriguez, Taylor Serrett, Jayce Smith, Gabriella Taylor, Benjamin Treese, Trinity Wells and Emilena Wilck.
Students applied for the trip more than a year ago. They were elected based on their applications, academics, behavior and letters of recommendation. Selected students participated in fundraisers to help cover the $500 cost to attend the trip.
Students were prepared for the trip in social studies classes for months by learning about the lengthy electoral process — primaries, conventions, debates, election, Electoral College and the smooth transfer of power in America.
Once in Washington, D.C., the students wore neon orange hats so they could be easily identified and counted. Eight students were assigned to each chaperone.
“The kids were outstanding and enjoyed the experience,” Eakins said. “From what we’ve heard from parents since the trip, it exceeded students’ expectations.”
“I think the trip went really well,” Klemann said. “The kids were well prepared and they really liked it. They took a lot of pictures.”
Students are now preparing individual projects about their three-day adventure in the nation’s capital to be displayed in the NMS library.
Eighth-grader Kylar Vermeulen said attending the inauguration was “the best day of his life,” and the cruise on the Potomac was his favorite part of the trip. His twin, Jackson Vermeulen, said attending the inauguration was a “mesmerizing experience.”
“We got to experience a part of history that doesn’t happen everyday,’’ Jackson Vermeulen said.
Students were able to see the motorcade that included the car Trump and Obama rode to the inauguration.
“It was really cool,” Jackson Vermeulen said. “Most of us thought we saw the back of Donald Trump’s head.’’
Jackson Vermeulen liked the 2-1/2 hour cruise and the air and space museum.
Eighth-grader Michael Hermenet said that attending the inauguration was the high point of the trip for him.
“It was a cool experience to see a part of history happening in person,’’ he said. “It was different than seeing it on TV.”
Hermenet, who had not been to Washington, D.C., before, said it was much different viewing the various memorials in person rather than seeing pictures of them.
Eighth-grader Haley Miller said she hadn’t decided yet whether the cruise or visiting the air museum was the favorite part of her entire trip. She also said the inauguration speakers initially seemed boring until she saw familiar faces like Obama and Trump.
“Despite students being on both sides politically, all were excited to witness the transfer of power and see both presidents,” Klemann said. “It seemed like every student was excited. It didn’t matter about politics.”