Local boys have front seat to history as they attend Presidential Inauguration

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When millions of people crowded into the Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on a cold January day to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, somewhere in that crowd were two Switzerland County boys who got to witness a piece of history.

Christian Stogsdill, a seventh grader at Switzerland County Middle School; and Tyler Teel, a sixth grader at Switzerland County Middle School, had the opportunity to attend this year’s Presidential Inauguration through the National Young Scholars program.

The program, which holds conferences at different times that bring young people together from all over the country, is available to students who are nominated by teachers for their excellence in the classroom and in the community.

Christian Stogsdill was nominated by Peggy Eckerty, his fourth grade teacher at Switzerland County Elementary School when he was in her class; while Tyler Teel was nominated by computer teacher Pam Ely, when she taught at Switzerland County Elementary School.

After being accepted into the program Tyler attended the National Young Scholars conference in Dekalb, Illinois, in the summer of 2006; and Christian attended the same conference a year later. It was at those conferences that both boys were told that they may have the chance to travel to Washington, D.C.

“We found out last summer that we had been nominated to go to the inauguration,” Tyler Teel said. “We’ve been planning the trip since then.”

The boys left Switzerland County on Friday, January 16th, and began their trip to the nation’s capital with members of their family. Tyler was driven by his mom, Katrina Lock; while Christian was driven by is mother, Mary Stogsdill, and his grandmother also made the trip.

Arriving in Washington, D.C. on Saturday afternoon, the five-day program began with the boys checking into their rooms and picking up all of their credentials. Although they did not travel to the event together, the boys were in the same room during their stay – sharing with a boy from New Mexico and another from Texas.

“We really made a lot of new friends,” Tyler said.

The first banquet that the boys attended on Saturday night at which the featured speaker was Erik Weihenmayer – the only blind man to climb the “Seven Summits” – the highest peaks on each continent.

“He was really interesting,” Christian said. “He’s climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest and he’s blind. He let us know that we can do anything that we want to do.”

On Sunday morning the boys attended another conference at the University of Maryland that featured Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and also as Secretary of State. The boys were able to continue to get to know many of the other kids who were also on the trip, with a total of 1,342 kids from all over the nation being part of the event.

On Monday the boys got to hear former Vice President Al Gore speak, also at the University of Maryland – and although their first three days were hectic, as they went to bed late on Monday night, they were both filled with anticipation about the following day.

Inauguration Day.

“We had to be up and dressed and at breakfast at 4 a.m.,” Christian said. “We had to be on our buses to leave at 4:30 a.m. It was a long day.”

The boys were in two different groups for the inauguration, but all of the groups began their day at the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall that is a part of the Smithsonian Institute. There they got to see all types of aircrafts and spaceships – a personal favorite of Christian’s – and they also had the chance to meet the crew from Space Shuttle flight STS 126, which flew a 15-day mission to the International Space Station in November of last year.

After finishing their tour, the groups split up and headed down the Mall toward the Washington Monument, where they were supposed to watch the inauguration.

That’s when they discovered that they were in a crowd of millions of people.

“Some people walked in front of me and I got separated from my group,” Tyler recalled. “So I walked to a First Aid station and told a Secret Service agent my problem. He helped me.”

Staying with the agent, Tyler went to the Capitol steps for the inauguration.

“I was at the bottom of the steps about 10 rows back, but there were so many tall people that I couldn’t see anything,” Tyler said.

Meanwhile, Christian’s group was trying to make their way to the Washington Monument to find their spot.

“We got caught in all of the crowd,” Christian said. “There were people pushing and shoving and trying to get through. There were people jumping over fences. We never did get to the Washington Monument.”

Although neither boy actually saw the inauguration take place, both certainly heard it.

“There were speakers everywhere, so everyone could hear what was going on,” Christian said.

After the inauguration was finished, Tyler said that the Secret Service agent connected him with another group from the National Young Scholars program, who got him to his correct bus for the trip out of the area.

“They had people from the conference everywhere,” Tyler said. “There were adults all over the place, so I felt safe and I knew that I’d find my group.”

After the inauguration was finished, all of the groups headed to the Marriott Hotel, where they ate lunch and watched the parade on large screens. From there it was back to their rooms to begin packing to leave the following day.

“We had a security check at 6 p.m. back at our rooms,” Tyler said. “All of our luggage had to be packed and then they took all of it to another room where we picked it up the next morning. We finally got in bed around midnight, so it was a long day.”

But worth it.

“Definitely,” Christian said when asked if he’d do it all again. “I really had a great time.”

“It was a blast,” Tyler said. “I’m hoping to go to another conference somewhere else, and hopefully I can come back for the next inauguration in four years. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Christian Stogsdill is the son of Eric and Mary Stogsdill of Vevay. Tyler Teel is the son of Katrina and Richard Lock of East Enterprise.