For 15 students at the University of Central Arkansas, their dreams of being a part of something historic came true Jan. 21. The group was given the opportunity to attend President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
The students filled out questionnaires sent out by UCA and were chosen based on their answers as to why they should be selected.
Arzalious Davis, a sophomore at the university, said that when he found out he was chosen to attend, he felt like he had won the lottery.
“I was so excited,” Davis said. “I didn’t think that I would get chosen.”
Davis had never been to Washington, D.C., and said he didn’t know what to expect.
“Seeing the United States Capitol and being in the presence of all the people [there] — it was historic,” Davis said.
As an early-childhood-education major, Davis said the experience is something he plans on talking about to students in his classes.
“I would love to have more high school and elementary students travel to D.C.,” Davis said. “No opportunities like this were ever presented to me.”
The Helena-West Helena native said he will never forget going to the inauguration.
“It made my life. I absolutely have no regrets. The trip was incredible,” Davis said.
For most of the students who attended the UCA-funded trip, the 2012 election was the first presidential election in which they could vote.
Jared LaReau, a freshman at UCA who is “very involved” in politics, said he didn’t know what to anticipate when he headed toward the U.S. Capitol.
“[The day I found out I was attending] was very surreal for me because I was so happy,”
LaReau, who is president of the Young Democrats at UCA, had also never been to Washington, D.C., and didn’t know what to expect. He said hearing the president speak was his favorite part of the experience.
Paige Murphy, a senior, said she didn’t expect to be chosen to go on the trip.
“I thought they would pick all of the kids that were in the Honors College and [political science] kids,” Murphy said. “I wanted to go as part of the student media, for The Fountain and the other news outlets on campus.”
Murphy is associate editor of The Fountain, UCA’s student-run, online news outlet. Although Murphy had never been to a presidential inauguration, she found that meeting the other students who attended was a memorable experience.
“I had never met any of the other people before the trip. It was pretty cool getting to meet some new people,” Murphy said.
Another memorable experience for Murphy was the walk to the actual inaugural event.
“We got to walk from where the buses dropped us off and got to see the street vendors selling inauguration memorabilia,” Murphy said.
Senior Darlecia Williams said that when she found out she had been selected to go on the inauguration trip, she had forgotten that she applied.
“I wasn’t sure that I heard them correctly,” Williams said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
When Williams was voting in the 2012 election, she said, she never thought she would be attending the inauguration.
“I played a part in history, and I got to witness a part of history. It was unbelievable,” Williams said.
Although her friends and family keep asking her questions about the inauguration, Williams is perfectly fine with that.
“It’s definitely a story I don’t mind repeating,” Williams said.
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.