The select few

The Baltimore Sun

If they were in school, the students would probably watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama on television with their teachers and classmates. Inaugural balls? Probably off-limits.

But a select group of Anne Arundel County high school students will be in Washington to see Obama sworn in Tuesday as the 44th president of the United States and participate in some of the festivities.

A junior at Annapolis Area Christian School will attend the swearing-in ceremony through his selection as a 2009 presidential scholar. Students from Annapolis, Arundel and Glen Burnie high schools will attend the inauguration, after the schools received tickets from the office of Rep. John Sarbanes.

Students from North County High's Academy of Hospitality, Travel and Tourism will work with vendors along the National Mall preparing and selling food. And about a half-dozen students in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program will present the colors at the Africa and International Friends Inaugural Ball.

"The historic inauguration of Barack Obama is a real-life civics lesson," said Sarbanes, whose office received more than 14,000 requests for tickets but received fewer than 200 for distribution. "First-hand educational opportunities outside the classroom often dramatically enhance the learning process, and I'm very pleased we were able to provide these students with the opportunity to attend. When they share their experience with classmates, I hope it will spark their interest in public service and government."

Anne Arundel, unlike many area school districts, decided to keep public schools open on Inauguration Day. But county students were told that if they took the day off, the absence would be excused.

Because of the county's closeness to Washington, many students might be planning to go to the capital for the inauguration. But with demand for tickets far exceeding supply, students who did not get them from Sarbanes or through groups or affiliations are likely to be disappointed.

Sarbanes' office distributed tickets to high school students in the 3rd Congressional District, giving a ticket to one student and a parent at five schools - two schools in Baltimore County and three in Anne Arundel.

Paul Kriewald, an assistant principal at Glen Burnie High School, said administrators pulled a name out of a hat from among about 150 students who had been recognized recently for good behavior, and got Gambriel Beasley, a 15-year-old ninth-grader.

"He just happened to be the lucky guy," Kriewald said. "His mom is really excited. He lucked out."

The other students were Jenny Bukowski from Annapolis High School and Jordan Daniel, an 11th-grader at Arundel High School.

Principal Sharon Stratton said Sarbanes had visited Arundel in October to talk to students about what it is like to be in Congress and how to be financially responsible in light of the country's fiscal crisis. She said she thought that was why he thought of the school when he had tickets to give.

Daniel, 18, a senior at Arundel, exudes "quiet leadership," Stratton said. He started a mentoring program at the school, is a good student and is well-behaved, the principal said.

"I was really surprised," Daniel said. "I didn't know my principal recognized me like that. ... To hear her say she was proud of me ... I was really, really happy. Being there with my father, and he gets to see the first black president. I think it will be a real emotional and a real good time for him and me."

The dozen students from North County are going to use what they've learned in the classroom as they work at food stands on the National Mall.

"This is an unbelievable opportunity for our students not only to take what they've learned in a classroom and put it into practice, but to take part in a presidential inauguration," said Daniel P. Fluhart, who coordinates the Academy of Hospitality, Travel and Tourism at the school.

And the JROTC students at Meade High School will take part in an inaugural ball that will benefit Fallen Soldiers Inc., a nonprofit that aims to foster community development in poor areas of the United States and Africa, according to its Web site. About a half-dozen students will present the colors during the Africa and International Friends Inaugural Ball.

"This is a great honor not only for the cadets in our program but for our school as a whole," said Daryl Kennedy, the principal. "Our cadets are outstanding young men and women who work very hard in school and in the community, and we are thrilled that they have been chosen for this prestigious honor."

Ryan Cato, 17, will attend the inauguration and an inaugural ball as part of his participation in the Presidential Youth Leadership Conference, which invited 400 presidential scholars from across the country. Cato and the other scholars were scheduled to be in Washington beginning on Friday and were to meet with military and intelligence officers and other government officials to learn the effects a new presidential administration has on different parts of government.

Everyone at his small private school has been buzzing about his trip.

"Teachers that I haven't talked to in years have come up to me," Cato said.

Cato and his father, Tony, volunteered for the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania and Virginia, knocking on doors and encouraging people to vote.

Tony Cato said he told his son, "Now there's no excuse for not achieving or not getting to the top of the ladder. This country said, 'Hey, we want this guy to be our leader because he's the most qualified person.' There's just no glass ceiling anymore."

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