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Varnett students witness history as Obama starts second term

WASHINGTON -- Four Varnett students and three former students were among  an excited group that witnessed the inauguration of President Obama as he began his second term in office.

Amid a sea of waving American flags, the students and 6 Varnett staffers braved the cool weather as Mr. Obama repeated the oath of office during  the nation’s 57th presidential inauguration ceremony. Dr. M. Annette Cluff, the superintendent of this charter school in Houston, and Mr. Alsie Cluff, Jr., Varnett's operations and facilities chief, also attended the event.

The historical occasion came on Jan. 21, 2013, the national holiday to honor the birthday of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The group flew into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Saturday, Jan. 19, and visited the Smithsonian Museums, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial before settling for dinner. The following day staff and students took a trip to  George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens and visited Arlington National Cemetery.

Monday, of course, was the big day when hundreds of thousands of people packed the National Mall to witness the inauguration and the president’s 18-minute speech.  In the evening, the students attended and took part in an inaugural ball dinner specifically tailored for them. On Tuesday, the group visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and spent time on the grounds of the Capitol Building before returning to Houston that evening.

The Varnett students on the trip were all 5th graders:  De-Janelle Hughes and Brandon Mack from the East Campus and Shakeera Ivory and Shasha Williams from the Southwest Campus. They were accompanied by Twilet Alexander, Southwest Campus director; Dora Morrow, Northeast Campus Director; Greta Peacock, the district’s 3rd-5th grade curriculum coordinator; Adiela Lopez, Southwest assistant director;  Bruce Rhone, Southwest  science teacher and Pete McConnell, district communications director. Former Varnett students Callie Peacock, Jurney Alexander and Shamal Alexander also attended.

 Two students, pictured at right,  wrote about their experiences.

Brandon Mack, 5th Grade, East Campus:

“I had an educational trip to President Obama’s inauguration. It was a historical event watching President Obama give his speech about what he is going to do as President. We learned about  civil rights and Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech called ‘I have a dream.’

“Seeing President Obama is something that I will never forget. We were selected to go to the inauguration and see Mr. Obama. We learned a lot about Washington, D.C. and its history. That was one of the historical events that I will never forget.”

 De-Janelle Hughes, 5th Grade, East Campus, headlined her story "My trip to the inaugural function."

 “My experience to the inaugural function was fun and educational. I think it was fun because we got to see George Washington’s mansion. I also thought it was educational because we learned how the elected president takes the oath before he takes office.

“On the day of the presidential inauguration, we had to walk two miles. It was cold and there were a lot of people. When we got to our destination we waited a couple of hours for the ceremony to start. The president and other dignitaries were introduced, then Kelly Clarkson sang followed by Beyoncé Knowles’ rendering of the National Anthem.

“After all that excitement, people stood and watched the parade. During the MLK parade, Mr. Obama and the First Lady got out of their car and waved in excitement. One thing I learned during these four days is when you have rights to do anything, you can make your dream come true, as said by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

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