HAMMOND | Among the crowd attending the upcoming presidential inauguration will be seven high school seniors from Gary who represent some of the most principled and passionate ideas about improving their city.
The students’ essays around the idea of creating a city of Gary “where anything is possible” earned them an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., funded by the Barden Gary Foundation Scholarship Program and also a donation for one additional student via the Bridgette Kelly Foundation.
The students, all Gary Barden Foundation’s Scholarship Foundation members, learned of their selection during a during a holiday event Tuesday at the South Shore Convention and Visitors Center. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships and incentives for high school seniors.
On their way to Washington are: Tacarra Holden and Denisha Golston (Kelly Foundation recipient), both of Lew Wallace; Laurielle McFerson, West Side; Brytnie Jones, Wirt/Emerson; Teneia Martin and Marcus Lloyd, both Thea Bowman; and Jarell Springfield, Calumet Township.
Lloyd, who takes an Advanced Placement government class, said he’s looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about how federal government functions.
“I may run for office some day. I have thought about becoming a member of the House of Representatives,” said Lloyd, who decried the high cost of school uniforms in his essay, "Uniformity.”
In addition to attending the swearing-in ceremony on the U.S. Capitol steps, the students will participate in the Close Up program, a weeklong immersion into the political landscape offering workshops, meetings with members of Congress or their staff and visits with representatives from various Cabinet departments, lobbyists, embassy officials and members of the media. They also will participate in a number of inaugural events arranged by the Close Up program.
Professors from Indiana University Northwest chose the essays from among 21 submissions by students from participating schools, making their selection based on how well the essays reflected the theme: Impossible is Possible – Accept the Challenge.
The essays asked students to showcase their leadership abilities while complementing a variety of skill sets, such as writing, logic, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.
Reflecting on her essay, "The Bully Project," Jones hopes to launch a rally in Northwest Indiana to bring focus to the subject of bullying in schools.
“Many people don’t realize how often bullying does happen,” she said. “I want to bring in national speakers on the topic of bullying and have everyone come together to talk about the effects of bullying, so when it does happen to them or someone else they will know what to do.”
Like the other the essay winners, Holden is looking forward to seeing President Obama and experiencing the U.S. Capitol for the first time.
“I’ve watched the inauguration on TV before, but it will be really exciting to see it up close and personal,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to visiting the Martin Luther King Memorial.”