HAMMOND | The city of Gary is sending some of its best and brightest people to the presidential inauguration this week.
That would be a group of nine students whose essays around the idea of creating a Gary “where anything is possible” earned them a trip to Washington, D.C., courtesy of the Barden Gary Foundation Scholarship Program and a donation from the Bridgette Kelly Foundation.
On Wednesday, the students had a sleepover at the Ramada Inn in Hammond, where they were joined by their parents and discussed the upcoming trip and all they’ve learned about government and their city’s future as a result of the essay contest.
And like the essay contest, the trip will be a learning experience, with excursions to a variety of national monuments planned. In addition to attending the swearing-in ceremony on the U.S. Capitol steps, they will participate in the Close Up program, a weeklong immersion to the political landscape through a variety of workshops and meetings with members of Congress. That will include U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, and representatives from various Cabinet departments, lobbyists, embassy officials and members of the media.
On their way to Washington are Tacarra Holden and Denisha Golston, of Lew Wallace Science Technology Engineering Mathematics Academy; Laurielle McFerson, of West Side Leadership Academy; Brytnie Jones, of Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Academy; Teneia Martin and Marcus Lloyd, of Thea Bowman Academy; and Jarell Springfield, of Calumet High School.
Jones, 18, is excited about attending Monday's Inauguration Day Ball that is just for teenagers.
“There will be 3,000 students there, and I will get to wear an evening gown,” she said. “It took me a long time to pick it out.”
Jones said attending the inauguration is an opportunity to be a part of history. But more importantly, she hopes the ideas expressed in her anti-bullying essay, “The Bullying Project,” can bring real change to Gary schools.
Holden, 18, said the essay contest experience has taught her that long hours of hard work pay off. She also hopes to bring change to her city.
“When I finish collage, I would like to come back to Gary and become a City Council member,” she said.
Martin, 18, said she is looking forward to visiting the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial and the opportunity to see President Barack Obama in person.
Springfield, 19, is interested in hearing Obama’s inauguration speech and what his goals are for his second term in office. The hopeful medical student, whose essay focused on developing more after-school programs, said he was happy to make his parents and grandparents proud.
Professors from Indiana University Northwest chose the essays from 21 submissions by students from participating schools, making their selection based on how well the essays reflected the theme of Impossible is Possible – Accept the Challenge.