Traveling with Teenagers to the Inauguration

April 17, 2013 in Uncategorized by admin

Congressman Jared Huffman with Partnership Scholars Students Gabriel Hernandez, Keily Becerra, Damien Duncan, Tracy Gordon, Jose Gaona and mentor Larry Sawyer at the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
Traveling with Teenagers to the Inauguration

 by Rachel Binah

The Partnership Scholars Program, created by Dr. and Mrs. Glenn Langer of Little River, provides scholarship money and a mentor for academically high achieving students from supportive, low income families. The money makes it possible to create cultural enrichment experiences by visiting art museums, concerts, plays, and traveling to interesting places. We prepare our scholars to attend a 4 year college or university by helping them develop skills and see possibilities which they might not otherwise. I am fortunate to be one of the mentors in the program.

Six of our teenage scholars, from Fort Bragg and Mendocino, Keily Becerra, Damien Duncan, Jose Gaona, Tracy Gordon, Gabriel Hernandez, Taylor Stonebarger joined me and mentor Larry Sawyer on a trip to Washington, D.C. for the Inauguration of President Obama. It was exciting to view history through their eyes.

Inauguration week was a whirlwind: the swearing in ceremony and actually being there while the President took his oath of office, attending receptions and parties, a special tour of the Capitol and the White House, meeting our newly elected Congressman Jared Huffman and his staff, learning about the role of a member of congress, viewing the monuments depicting our nations historic moments, visiting 5 of the many magnificent museums (Holocaust, Natural History, Air & Space, Native American, National Gallery), eating at wonderful ethnic restaurants (Ethiopian, Lebanese, El Salvadoran, Indian, Israeli/Palestinian, Italian).

 My goal was for the students to feel comfortable talking with elected officials. Intimidation by famous, rich or powerful people leads to inaction. I told them they had as much right to express their opinions as anyone else.

Just off the plane, we went to an Inauguration Party. At the California Democratic Party Gala, we were graciously received by Leader Nancy Pelosi who spoke with each of them individually in a private meeting. Our scholars were awe struck by her interest and concern. They were practically unable to speak. But, as the week went on, they lost their shy demeanor by meeting many members of congress and other notables.

During our visit, the students even met many people about whom they have studied in school. They were thrilled to have a conversation with Dolores Huerta, who worked with Cesar Chavez to form the United Farmworkers Union.

Warmly welcomed by our California delegation at the DNC Winter Meeting, the students were fascinated to see how a political party operates and met many elected officials and leaders from all over the United States. They were especially moved by a Native American delegate from the Pacific Northwest who spoke to them with passion about the importance of organizing ethnic minority communities to vote.

Roz Wyman regaled them with stories of her role as Chair of the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco and bringing baseball to California. Congresswoman Maxine Waters listened closely to their serious intent. The experience of meeting with Vice President Joe Biden astonished them. He talked with each one, personally — and they have pictures to prove it!

These experiences will effect me and my students the rest of our lives.

Please join us at the College of the Redwoods on Tuesday, April 16th at 6 pm in Room 112 where the students will give their personal perspectives on our excellent adventure at the Inauguration.

For more information about the Partnership Scholars Program and how to become a mentor or donor, visit our web