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Middle schoolers to see Obama get ‘augerated’ — ‘And it’s just like awesome’

Students teacher going InauguratiPresident Obamfrom Alcott College Prep. (l-r) MirandRispoli JayvFleming teacher Jenny Vincent Ryne SegurRhiannSell Wednesday January 16 2013.

Students and teacher going to Inauguration of President Obama from Alcott College Prep., (l-r) Miranda Rispoli, Jayvon Fleming, teacher Jenny Vincent, Ryne Segura and Rhiannon Sell, Wednesday, January 16, 2013. l John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 21, 2013 6:24AM

They’re actually going to witness history, not just read about it in Miss V’s Social Studies class.

The middle schoolers are going to see the big man. Barack Obama. In person. In Washington, D.C. As he’s sworn into his second term as president of the United States.

“I think there’s going to be a speech and kind of like a celebration, in a way,” is how Rhiannon Sell, a seventh grader at Alcott Preparatory School described it.

The last time the Chicagoan took the presidential oath, these seventh and eighth graders were a bit too young to make the trip.

Mostly Ryne Segura, 12, remembers how he felt (“pretty great”) and what the president was wearing (“I liked his suit”).

Miranda Rispoli, 13, was at the viewing party the school had in its auditorium.

“I remember seeing Obama standing up, doing the hand over his chest,” she said.

Jayvon Fleming once saw Obama coming out of his house, and lots of times on TV.

He’s now soexcited “to get to see the inauguration in person.”

“I’m going to get to experience more things,” the 12-year-old said.

Seventeen Alcott students plus three chaperones had Saturday morning flights to the nation’s capital, cameras and iPods, extra socks and hand warmers in tow.

Their teacher, Miss V — Jenny Vincent, middle school social studies teacher at the Lincoln Park school — hustled and pestered and called and cajoled. With help from the school’s congressman, Rep. Mike Quigley, the kids snagged a Tuesday morning tour of the U.S. Capitol with Illinois’ senior senator, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. They also finagled an appointment with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Tuesday afternoon before flying home Tuesday night.

There’s time for the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and the Newseum. And there’s a ball just for school children from across the country Monday night.

Quigley dropped off the 20 inauguration tickets he procured for the Alcott kids Friday, with a little advice:

“Enjoy it. Take pictures. Do a little research ahead of time about historical qualities of what they’re seeing.”

The North Side Democrat was happy to set aside the 20 for the group in spite of steep demand from others in his Chicago district.

“These kids are going to be able to tell their grandkids they saw Barack Obama get inaugurated. That’s exciting,” he said.

“Sometimes these inaugurals are things that kick off a generation,” he said, citing John F. Kennedy’s address that inspired public service. “So I think these kids will remember the lines of the president the rest of their entire lives.”

‘Living in history, sort of’

The 17 students and three chaperones are tooling around the capital on a bus tour with kids from schools in Texas. They’ve been given notebooks by their teacher to chronicle the journey, take notes, keep track of their photographs.

“These are all going to be primary sources because you’re there in the moment,” Vincent told them Wednesday at Alcott. “People will come to you guys for your advice and your experiences, right? Because you guys were there, and you’re there as kids and you have a whole different perspective on stuff and it’s going to be so cool to see that and see how you give that information back to your classmates when you come back.”

Agewise, Miss V’s students fit right between the Obama girls, 11-year-old Sasha and 14-year-old Malia. Naturally they wonder what life would be like growing up in theWhite House.

“I think it’d be good and bad,” Miranda decided, “because my mom was telling me about the different landlines like to like call their friends to just go out. It’d be really weird to have a bunch of Secret Service when you’re goofing off with your friend. It’d be kind of awkward but it’d be cool at the same time. It’d be cool that you live in the White House. I know there’s a bowling alley, swimming pool and other cool stuff.”

Rhiannon doesn’t want any part of it.

“You couldn’t have a normal life, like you couldn’t go out with your friends without having a bunch of security and people constantly tracking you down.”

“But you’d be living in history, sort of,” Miranda said, “you’d have Lincoln’s room. If I lived there I’d sneak in late at night.

“I bet you wouldn’t have to sneak,” her teacher said.

Ryne agreed it’d be a hard life. “Just because you have a lot of friends and some of your friends are like...”

­“Using you,” Jayvon interjects.

“Yeah, using you,” Ryan said, “where they’d take your picture or they’d want your signature and they’d sell it or keep it in a frame.”

‘President wants to be “augerated”’

Vincent, who teaches social studies and writing, has been preparing the brood since she started planning in earnest on Nov. 7. She had already led her students through election season with a mock election in which Alcott’s youngest students voted on snacks. Her middle schoolers held focus groups, staged campaigns, and in the end, K through 2nd graders voted overwhelmingly to choose Oreos and fruit snacks over Goldfish and apples.

So she’s now thrilled to usher some of her students through history as it unfolds. She’s been briefing them, quizzing them, helping them make connections.

“Do you know what day he’s getting inaugurated on? Do you remember? I told you guys,” she said.

Jayvon does: “Martin Luther King Day.”

“Oh wow,” Rhiannon gasped. “That’s weird how that worked out.”

“That’s cool,” Ryne said, “‘cause it’s just like you see something from the past and you see something in the present and you note the day it was, and it’s Martin Luther King’s day, and the president wants to be ‘augerated,’” ­— “‘Inaugurated,’” his teacher interjects.

“‘Inaugurated,’” he continues, “and it’s just like awesome.”

‘I’d tell him about myself’

No one yet knows how close the Alcott students will be Monday to the stage on at the U.S. Capitol where the president will take his oath. Vincent hopes they’ll score good spots, up front or something, since they hail from the president’s home state.

Not close enough to meet him or talk to him or anything, but if that chance arose, they all know just what they’d say to the 44th president, their onetime neighbor:

“First I’d tell him my name,” said Jayvon Fleming. “I’d tell him about myself.”

Rhiannon: “I think I’d tell him about schools in Chicago because that’s where he’s from.”

Miranda would introduce herself and then: “I’d tell him to put more money into CPS so we can get air conditioning in the summer. We die it’s so hot in here.”

Jayvon would then add, quickly, that Alcott could also use some better bathrooms.

For Ryne it’s simple: “How my family loves him. and tell him just to keep up the good work.”

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