As the eyes of the world were on Washington DC on Friday, Jan. 20, Morgan High School students Cecily Clark, Tricia Cowgill, Sarah Deeble, Ashley McMillan and Sawyer Skidmore were right there in the action with their chaperones Jennifer Clark and Nicole Reed, as they had reserved seats to one of the most prestigious events in the world—the inauguration of the president of the United States of America!
The group traveled to Washington D.C. as part of a special session of Citizen Washington Focus Inauguartion (CWF) through 4-H. Morgan youth and thousands of 4-Hers from around the country have attended CWF over the years and have learned about the three branches of government including the judicial, presidential and particularly the legislative branch. This particular session, the first of its kind, focused primarily on the presidential branch of government. From caucuses through campaigns and finally inauguration, the participants followed along with their own process throughout the camp while they were learning in classes and seminars all about what it takes to be president of the United States of America.
“We have known about going to D.C. for a year, and we knew it was going to be during the inauguration,” Sarah said of looking forward to the trip. “I prepared by paying attention to everyone running for president and listening to each candidate. I wanted to know as much as possible for whoever became president.”
“I did research about politics, especially our new president.” Sawyer said. “I also did some research on some of the popular monuments in the area. It made me even more excited to go!”
This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity began on Jan. 16 when the group arrived early and had the opportunity to visit Ford’s Theatre and to learn about the great president Abraham Lincoln. This particularly stood out to Nicole Reed, who received her bachelor of arts degree in political science with a minor on international affairs from Idaho State University. Her focus of study was on presidencies and environmental policy, so this opportunity had significance to this lifetime admirer of Lincoln.
The group also had the chance to tour the United Sates Capitol with an intern from Rob Bishop’s office. Reed and Clark have each toured the capitol several times prior to this and were beyond impressed with the extensive tour they received from their guide aptly named America.
During summer sessions of Citizen Washington Focus, the groups typically visit all of the monuments. However with extra security, barricades, crowds and detours, the monuments were limited. They focused on touring the areas that were more presidentially oriented including the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
The group met with Rob Bishop, Mia Love and other Utah leaders at the open house for Utah’s Congress. These busy congressmen took time to visit with the high school students.
“This experience changed how I think about politics because I was able to talk personally to my representative Rob Bishop, and I saw that he really cared about what people from Utah think and wants to listen to our opinions,” Cecily explained.
These 4-H kids also did what they do best and gave service by helping at the University of Maryland. They assisted in getting the grounds cleaned and ready for spring.
On Friday Jan. 20, as millions of people around the world watched as Donald Trump was given the office of president of the United States of America, these 4-Hers had a reserved spot up close to view the day’s events. These teens had to run on little sleep to get to their spots early enough to avoid any problems along the way. They stayed in their spots for four hours before the event began, but they felt like the time flew with the excitement around them. While many adults around them acted in a distasteful way, heckling, booing and chanting during the day, the chaperones were very proud of the dignified manner in which the Morgan 4-H kids behaved.
“It was so cool to actually be there and see our new president sworn into office,” Tricia said. “It’s so much different there than what you hear on the news.”
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am very appreciative that 4-H has provided me this chance to experience something like this,” Cecily said of attending the inauguration. “It was fun to be part of history.”
“I loved being around so many other people from our country who are proud to be Americans and who want to have a say in our future,” Sarah agreed.
“I have never done anything even remotely similar to it!” Sawyer said of the inauguration. She thought it was an amazing experience. “I was astonished at all of the people who showed up to support the president. It was definitely a major culture shock just being there!”
The trip maintained a grueling pace and was exhausting, but everyone was happy to fit in as much as possible. They ended the night with an Inaugural Ball dinner and dance cruise held on the Potomac River.
“This experience solidified my desire to never become a politician,” Sawyer said looking forward to her civic right and responsibility of voting. “I am so grateful that there are people who are willing to take on that responsibility and that I don’t have to.”
Each of these young women were selected through an application process which focused on their dedication and years of involvement in 4-H and 4-H Teen Council. Every summer 8,000 to 10,000 4-Hers from around the country gather to participate in Citizen Washington Focus (CWF).
“I loved the opportunity I had to meet other people from all over the country and to simply get out of our little Morgan bubble for a week and see what life is like in a big city,” Sawyer said.
“People who were strangers at the beginning were really good friends of mine at the end,” Sarah said of the wonderful experience.
Cecily, Tricia, Sarah, Ashley and Sawyer will report their trip to the Morgan County Council in the near future. They also will be planning a way to give back to the community after taking this amazing trip with the 4-H.