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Area students given chance to witness history

By Lisa Burnett

This article was originally published January 31, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. Updated January 30, 2013 at 11:38 a.m.


Students in Harding University’s McNair Scholars program recently attended Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. Standing, from the left, are Linda Thompson, director of the McNair Scholars program; Isaac Alvarado; Creagan Williams; Justin Nesselrotte; Tiffany Perez; Patrick Bingham; Aurora Gerardo Smith; Jessica Word; and Tess Zuniga. In the front is Briana Lopez.

Some college students around the state were given the chance by their universities to attend Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration on Jan. 21.

Fifteen students from the University of Central Arkansas were chosen to go to the inauguration on a UCA-funded trip.

The students filled out questionnaires sent out by UCA and were chosen based on their answers as to why they should be selected.

Allison Rubio, a UCA junior sociology major from Cabot, said seeing the inauguration in person was completely different from watching it on television.

“It was awesome to see all of the members of Congress and listen to the president’s speech,” Rubio said.

The experience was special to Rubio because her goal is to be a member of Congress someday, she said.

Having to stand in the cold while the event took place wasn’t a big issue for Rubio. She said the group expected the temperature to be about 38 degrees.

“It wasn’t as cold as we expected, but we were all glad that we had our layers on,” Rubio said.

It was Rubio’s third visit to Washington, D.C., but she had never been to a presidential inauguration.

“It was really neat; the experience was really humbling,” Rubio said.

Harding University in Searcy also took a group of nine McNair Scholars to the inauguration.

The McNair Scholar program is a federally funded program for students who are either low-income and first-generation college students in their families or who are from minority groups underrepresented in graduate schools. The program prepares its students for graduate and doctoral studies.

Linda Thompson, director of the McNair Scholars, said going to the inauguration was important to the students because it was history in the making.

Money is available in the McNair Scholars program for students to take part in such “cultural” activities, Thompson said.

She said a presidential inauguration is a perfect activity for the scholars, and she jumped at the opportunity.

“I think it was good for them to just see the process in action,” Thompson said. “Although we couldn’t be up close and personal, the excitement of all of the people around made it a nice experience.”

Twenty-seven students are currently in the McNair Scholar program, and Thompson said students who wanted to travel to the inauguration simply had to sign up.

Patrick Bingham, a junior from Searcy, was one of the students from Harding to attend the inauguration.

“I had never been to D.C. before, and to see something like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bingham said.

The most memorable part of Bingham’s experience was hearing Obama speak.

“Obama addressed the nation, and you could just feel the joy and hope,” Bingham said.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or


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