High school students from the Babylon, Bellmore-Merrick, Three Village and Smithtown school districts will be among thousands of spectators attending the inauguration Friday of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president.
Thirty-one juniors and seniors from Babylon High School will depart Thursday morning for Washington, D.C., where they will visit monuments and historical sites as well as participate in the public viewing of the inauguration. The arrangements for the trip were made in October.
“For the kids, it is not about who wins or loses, it is about seeing the exchange of power and the democratic process and the peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another,” said Christopher Ryan, director of the Babylon High School social studies department and the trip’s organizer.
The students from the AP Government and AP U.S. History classes plan to leave their hotel at 5:30 a.m. Friday to stand in the public viewing area of the National Mall as Trump is being sworn in.
The inaugural has been marked by controversy, including a planned boycott by about 50 House Democrats and what National Park Service officials said is an unprecedented number of requests for permits to demonstrate, on Friday and during the weekend. Ryan advised the students to anticipate seeing Trump supporters and protesters and said he has students going who represent all sides of the political spectrum.
Gillian Morrow, 17, a Babylon High School senior, said she is excited to witness history firsthand.
“I think it will be interesting to see . . . how people are expressing themselves, their opinions and point of view, and that is something we are allowed to do — we have our freedom of speech,” she said.
This will be Ryan’s fourth such trip, having started with the inaugural of George W. Bush in 2005. The trip is self-funded by the students.
“It is about the process,” he said. “It is more about being a part of history than supporting one candidate over another.”
The students also will visit the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, and four of them have been selected to lay a wreath there. They return to Long Island on Sunday.
In addition to the Babylon group, teenagers from Mepham High School in Bellmore, Ward Melville High School in East Setauket and Smithtown High School East in St. James will participate with students from across the United States at a Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit in the nation’s capital, run by Envision, a private, for-profit company that has a variety of youth programs.
James S. Moore, 15, a sophomore at Ward Melville High School, and Smithtown High School East students Brian Femminella and Taylor Dachel are attending the event, which starts Wednesday and ends Sunday. Femminella, 16, is a junior, and Dachel, 17, is a senior. Kelsey White, 17, of North Merrick, is a senior from Mepham High School who will also be attending.
“The Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit will provide students with an opportunity to take part in historic events that coincide with the inauguration of the president of the United States,” said Andrew Potter, the chief academic officer for Envision and the summit.
Summit participants will gain a deeper understanding of the history behind the electoral process and inauguration traditions. They will hear from several notable speakers, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Gen. Colin Powell, filmmaker Spike Lee, soccer champion Abby Wambach, businesswoman Carly Fiorina and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
The students learned in October that they had been selected.
Femminella, of Nesconset, said he anticipates the program is “going to be an amazing opportunity and a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”
Both he and Dachel said they are impressed with the slate of keynote speakers.
“I can’t wait to hear what they have to say,” said Dachel, also of Nesconset.
They will participate in Delegations for Change, a simulation where the summit scholars work together to address the challenges that their generation and the new administration will face. Summit scholars also will attend the Envision Inaugural Gala, held at a Smithsonian Institution museum.
“I’m excited just to be part of history and the whole process,” said Moore, of East Setauket, “and I am hoping to learn more about the swearing-in of the president.”