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Robert C. Byrd High students heading to presidential inauguration

By Victoria L. Cann

The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Students from Robert C. Byrd High School will attend the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Friday to see what they’ve learned in their Advance Placement Government course come to life.

Greg Phillips, middle, speaks to students about what to expect as they attend the presidential inauguration in Washington D.C. today.
(Photo by Victoria L. Cann)

Instructor Greg Phillips said there will be a mix of 13 seniors and juniors on the trip. His hope is that the students will see what he’s been teaching all along.

“For these kids, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing because of how engaged the public has been in the election process,” Phillips said. “It will bring all those little pieces of the political process together.”

The students will leave the school for Washington, D.C., at 5 a.m. Friday.

They said they’re excited to be able to visit a place filled with history and witness history being made.

Senior Robert Riestenbert said there are several reasons he is looking forward to the trip. Among them: He’s never really been out of the state or visited a place such as Washington or an event like an inauguration.

“This is history in the making because this is a big shift in politics from the last eight years,” Riestenbert said. “I want to learn why people would try to separate themselves into two kinds of groups after such a big election, because in the end we’re all American.”

Experiencing the inauguration will be something to remember for a lifetime, Riestenbert said.

“It’s so important because the president will leave such a big, lasting imprint on the country,” he said. “He’s going to be the military leader and somewhat the policy center of the whole country.”

Junior Bree Suntken said she’s looking forward not only to witnessing the inauguration, but also to sharing her experience with others.

“I’m obviously going to tell people I was there. I lived it and saw the events that happened,” Suntken said. “I just feel like this is a great experience for us. Since we’re from West Virginia, we don’t really get a lot of opportunities like this.”

Phillips said attending the inauguration will tie in all aspects of what the students have learned in the AP Government class, but it comes at an appropriate time — when the class is in the middle of a unit on media and politics.

“Whether the media is driving culture or whether the culture sometimes pulls the media along because it’s what they want to see; whether politicians cater to the media in the fashion of being a demagogue or whether the media can also give voice to an issue — all those pieces I think are going to come together,” Phillips said.

Phillips said he also has talked with his students about their civil liberties and civil rights.

That involves “what rights they have as individuals protected under the Constitution and as groups,” he said. “All of that’s going to come out because it’s been such a big issue in the campaign. I think when they see that in person, it’s going to make more sense to them.”

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