KINGMAN - Countless millions worldwide will watch on Tuesday as Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. But while the vast majority will observe the historic event from the comfort of their homes, a handful of students from the Kingman Academy of Learning will be there in person.
Early this Saturday, 27 eighth- and ninth-graders from the Academy's middle and high school will board a plane to Washington, where they will spend the next several days touring the town's museums, seeing its monuments and witnessing history being made.
"We fly out Saturday morning, very early at 7 a.m., and we arrive back very late Wednesday at midnight," said Jennifer Perea, a KAOL middle school social studies teacher who helped arrange the trip along with fellow teacher Rhonda Jantz.
"We are going to see the Smithsonian Complex, all the memorials, and we're going to Arlington National Cemetery."
Perea said the school even managed to schedule a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with help from the U.S. Army.
"Four of our students get to be involved in that," she said. "They actually get to lay the wreath and do all those things."
The trip has been a long time coming. Perea said the plans began late in 2007, before the electoral primary season kicked off.
"Originally, we were contacted by different companies about doing a tour to DC for the summer," she said. "I asked if we could do a trip for the inauguration, and they said, 'Of course,' so we did it."
As plans started solidifying in March 2008, Perea said she figured the inauguration of the next president would have been historic no matter who won, since John McCain would have been the first president to represent Arizona, and Obama and Hillary Clinton would have been the first black and the first female presidents, respectively.
"Regardless of who was elected, it would be significantly historical for the state of Arizona or the nation, so I knew that would generate quite an interest with the students," Perea said.
But it didn't come cheap. Students and their families had to raise $2,000 apiece in order to pay for airfare, lodging, busing and food.
Perea said many students spent the past year either working or holding fundraisers to pay for the trip. "It's been an effort on the part of the students to raise their own money, and they've done a fantastic job," she said.
The students also got a little help from some local groups, including the Elks Lodge, which donated the cost of the group's tour bus, allowing KAOL to go wherever they want in Washington without having to contend with students from other schools.
"It's really nice, we can set our own schedule," Perea said. "It's very flexible because we're on our own, thanks to the Elks."
The students have also received pins from Mohave County, the City of Kingman and the Kingman Chamber of Commerce to help them show some local pride as they meet people from around the globe. Additionally, the Mohave Livestock Association and Kingman Farm Bureau have given a monetary donation for the trip, while local business Walker Electric has donated hats embroidered with the school's name.
But that's not the only contribution from Walker Electric - Councilman Keith Walker himself will be accompanying his wife and daughter on the trip, along with several other parents. "My wife came home and told me about how our daughter wanted to go, and I said 'Definitely,'" Walker said. "And then I said 'Gosh, I wish I could go,' and so she signed me up, too.
"I'm excited about everything we've got scheduled," Walker added. "I know the schedule we've got is pretty hectic, but it's going to be a fun trip. These kids are going to remember this forever."