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Ripon students heading to Obamas inauguration
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Students at Ripon’s Colony Oak School pose for a photo in 2017. The students attended the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C..

RIPON — Fifteen Ripon elementary school students are going to the inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.

The trip was open to Gifted and Talented Education Students (GATE) from the fifth to the eighth grades. A dozen Colony Oak School students are being joined by two from Weston School and one from Ripon School on the trip.

There will be one adult for every three students on the trip where students are looking forward to a  snowfall experience as well.  One of the dads going along is a Livermore police officer, Mike Mayberry.

Michelle Loftis said her daughter Lisa Torres was looking forward to the inaugural ball that students will attend. Her daughter has a special outfit for the event — a black strapless gown.

Loftis said parents had been given a year to pay for their daughters and sons to go to Washington.  

“I’ve been making payments all year,” she said.

It is the keen interest in history by Colony Oak fifth grade teacher Amy Johannsen that started the ball rolling last year for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.   Serving also as the school’s activities’ director and student council advisor, she attended a conference in Nevada last year where she learned of a “Spirit of America” tour that promised students a peak at the changing of the guard for the new president.

Nearly 3 million people expected in Washington

Two to three million people are expected to make up the crowd of onlookers.

A charter bus is scheduled to pick up the students Friday at 7 p.m. at Colony Oak on Murphy Road and take them to San Francisco Airport for a “red eye” flight on United Airlines to the East Coast.  They will return on Wednesday.

Johannsen showed an early interest in history in her own elementary school days in Arizona where she studied American History in the seventh grade and Arizona state history in the eighth.

She took part in a three-days visit to the state capital where she attended a legislative session.  In the past few years she was sent to Gettysburg by Colony Oak School where she immersed herself in early American history.

Johannsen said she sees the experience for Ripon students as observing a pivotal point in U.S. history.  It was a time when the first black man was running for president in addition to an older candidate in John McCain and a woman —with Sarah Palin running for vice president.

In addition to the inauguration the Ripon teacher is thrilled she will be able to take her charges for lunch at the Dobbin House on Sunday in Gettysburg.  It was there that the underground railroad made its stops to pick up slaves.

The students are expected to come back with information for individual reports they can share with fellow classmates about their experiences on the trip.

The students are going to be in Philadelphia about the time President-elect Obama is expected to be touring the same area before getting on the train for Washington, D.C.

They first arrive in Chicago at 5 a.m., Saturday morning, change planes, and then fly on to Philadelphia where they will see the Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Congress Hall as well as the National Constitution Center.

On Sunday they will have a battlefield tour and a Field of Freedom presentation at the Gateway Theater.   In the early evening in Washington, D.C., they will have dinner at the Thunder Grill at Union Station followed by visits to the Korean and Vietnam veterans’ memorials.

Monday will see the Ripon students beginning their day at Arlington National Cemetery, the Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives.  Lunch is scheduled at the Ronald Reagan Trade Center Food Court followed by a trip to Mount Vernon.

On Tuesday, the day of the inauguration, they will head off to Washington, D.C., for the inaugural activities.  The ceremony is set for noon  and the parade to follow is set for 2:30 in the afternoon.

Tuesday evening they will attend an inaugural ball — the American Musical Landscape Ball — where students will dress appropriately for the event.

On Wednesday they will visit the National Museum of American History.  They are expected to return to San Francisco at 6 p.m. all ready to get back to school first thing Thursday morning with a bag full of stories for their friends.

Students bound for Washington, D.C., from Colony Oak School are Kassadi Hofman, Montana Tyrus, Cody Haines, Jackie Kresse, Savanah Bickle, Abdullah Sulaiman, Trent Murphy, Samantha Schultz, Leeza Torres, Amanda Mayberry Aaron Lam and Taylor Johnson.  From Weston Elementary School it’s Amanda Campbell and Cody Beato.  Eric Chally-Butterworth will represent Ripon Elementary School.