Although it was a once in a lifetime experience, it was over too quickly. Two Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School students spent four days in Washington D.C. during the presidential inauguration ceremonies as part of a youth conference.
"I wish we could have stayed a month. I didn't want to come back. I'm beginning to like D.C.," Amanda Newsome, ninth grader, said Tuesday in an interview with The McDuffie Mirror.
Amanda and her classmate, Falon Sellers, were eligible to go on the trip with the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference as alumni of the Congressional Youth Leadership Council and the National Youth Leadership Forum.
The highlight of the trip for both girls was attending the inauguration of the nation's 44th president.
"It was incredible how everybody got together, so many people," Amanda said. "It didn't matter how old they were or what race they were or who they were, everybody everywhere was smiling."
While they were in the nation's capitol, their itinerary was packed with events, including visiting the Smithsonian museums, the Nationals' Baseball Stadium, the Newseum, went on a river cruise, watched a performance of American history by a Reduced Shakespeare Company and a performance of political satire by Capital Steps. They said their days started with breakfast between 4:30 and 5:30 every morning.
"It was definitely chaotic, but rewarding," Falon said.
The students heard from five keynote speakers - author and Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns, television journalist and National Geographic Explorer host Lisa Ling, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore and Nobel Peace Prize awardee Desmond Tutu.
Amanda said Desmond Tutu was her favorite. He was inspiring to her because he told the young people he thought the world was going to be in good hands with their generation. Amanda said usually the main stream focus is on the bad teens, such as those involved in fights or shootings.
"I thought it was good to hear him say that we can make tomorrow happen," she said, adding that Mr. Tutu was an animated speaker and held her attention.
Falon also appreciated Mr. Tutu's speech, but said she also learned from Al Gore. Falon said she liked how he focused their attention to climate, pollution and global warming. "We learn about it in school, but he reiterated how important it was," she said, adding that she now pays more attention to waste at home, such as turning off lights and recycling trash.
The girls also said they saw a lot of celebrities and took candid photos of them. Amanda said she was walking to the museum, and "saw Samuel L. Jackson standing right there on the street beside me. "I And Josh Lucas sat close to where I was sitting at the inauguration."
They also met a member of the youth conference who was from Scotland, and wore a kilt.
"It was different. It was eye-opening to see all the different cultures," Amanda said. "And to see how the U.S. has come such a long way."
Visiting the National's ballpark was special, because they were able to tour executive suites while they were there.
"I will probably never get to go in there again, so that was neat," Falon said.
"But the food wasn't that good there," Amanda added with her nose wrinkled.
And if they thought their schedule was tight while they were in Washington D.C., the freshmen experienced a real eye opener when they returned home.
"Ever since we've been back, we've been doing nothing but making up school work," Falon said.