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Students at Hempstead's Obama school watch proudly

Jalani Johnson is just 10 years old, but Tuesday he was already thinking about how decades from now, he'll tell his children he watched the inauguration of the first black American president from the nation's first school named after Barack Obama.

"I'll tell them no dream is too big," the fifth-grader said while sitting in a classroom at Barack Obama Elementary School in Hempstead, formerly Ludlum School but renamed soon after the election. "If you keep on trying, anything can happen."

Jalani and about 100 classmates sat on the floor of the school's gymnasium to watch the inauguration ceremony on a giant screen. The gym was decorated in stars and stripes, with shiny balloons and ribbons. At the back of the room, students took turns posing for pictures with a cardboard cutout image of Obama.

Other students watched from televisions in classrooms. A security guard watched from a small TV at the school's front entrance.

Waiting for the ceremony to begin, Alicia Blagrove, 9, penciled answers to questions in a packet of work sheets. She neatly colored in a circle, marking the answer "promise," to finish a sentence, "An oath is a . . . "

When Obama was shown on the screen, the students in the gym cheered, clapped and waved small American flags.

Then they sat in silence during Rick Warren's invocation.

Jalani, sitting in the front row, clasped his hands and closed his eyes.

As Joe Biden took his oath as vice president, third-grader Jean Paul Rojas Henao scribbled in a small notebook. "I'm taking notes on what happens on Inauguration Day," he said, looking up at the screen briefly.

In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, lessons have revolved around past inauguration ceremonies, said Principal Jean Bligen.

Vesky Molina, 10, shared her hope for Obama's presidency: "I wonder if he can help Hispanics with immigration."

Emily Philbert, 9, said she wonders what Obama will do for health care: "Some people can't afford to go to the doctor and that's a big problem."

Jalani wants to see improvements in the economy: "During the first 100 days, I think he and his team will fix the economy and pick up the country from where it's been."

During Obama's speech, first-grade teacher Desiree Randall looked like she was holding back tears. "I feel privileged to be at this school at this time," she said. "One of my students said, 'Barack looks like he can be my uncle.' "

As the students headed back to their classrooms, art teacher Kathleen Chester climbed a ladder to change the label under Obama's picture hanging over the gym's entrance. It had said "President-elect Barack Obama." She then went into the office, to a large sign on a bulletin board, and pulled staples out of the letters "elect," leaving behind " President Barack Obama."

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