Haylee Eckert may be young, but the 2008 graduate of Bishop Luers and now-freshman at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., has her sights locked on becoming a senator someday, which will allow her to lead and make changes.
She's on the right track.
Her high school SAT scores earned her a summer at Princeton University for a political science and government conference. The summer after that, Eckert went to Chicago for the National Youth Leadership Forum.
Those trips, along with other qualifying traits, earned Eckert a trip to Washington to watch Tuesday's inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
It will be Eckert's biggest - and most historic - chance to view federal government in action.
It also will drive Eckert harder toward her goal.
“Everything that happens in our society, government has some type of pull in that,” said Eckert, a political science and business double-major. “That importance really piques my interest. I don't want to be one of those people that just sits back and has things decided for them. There are things that I don't like and it would be great to be able to try to fix some of those things eventually.”
Eckert will watch President-elect Obama be sworn in from the National Mall in Washington, as part of the National Youth Leadership Forum.
The group with also have opportunities to hear Colin Powell and Al Gore speak.
For a small-town girl from Roanoke, this trip is huge.
“I've never witnessed anything like this,” said Eckert. “I'm from a small town, so being with all those people will be like a culture shock. I'm really excited to see how these things happen.
“I'm used to state government. Then you go to Washington, D.C., where it's, like, big time. It's the president. That's so crazy.”
♦♦♦ Ten-year-old Elijah O'Connell's first trip to Washington will be a memorable one.
O'Connell, along with his mother, Jessica Callahan, 32, and stepfather, Jonathan Frincke, 32, will watch President-elect Barack Obama be sworn in Tuesday.
With hundreds of thousands of people bound for the same location, this visit will certainly be burned into young Elijah's mind.
“I don't know that he's even seen a lot of pictures, even in his history class,” said Frincke. “He's only in fourth grade. He might be a little freaked out. We're going to try to do a little travel by train, but I think even just walking around, we'll have to tether each other.
“He's excited, but I don't think he knows what he's in store for.”
The family will have prime real estate from which to watch.
Frincke, who did some work locally for Obama's campaign, Callahan and Elijah will be staying with Frincke's great-uncle in his home, just a half-mile from the Capitol building.
So beyond the crowds, the family's major concern likely will be parking.
It will be worth the hassles, Frincke said.
“I guess what I'm waiting to see is just what the atmosphere is like,” said Frincke. “I'm interested to see what kind of energy there is. I expect friendly people, but with big crowds, you never know.
“It just seems like a pretty historic moment to be there for, and it wasn't something we could pass up.”
♦♦♦ Christine Walker, a sophomore political science major at DePauw University, will attend Tuesday's inauguration with a vast and diverse group of collegians from the Presidential Inaugural Conference.
Walker was invited to join the collection of co-eds, each of whom have political aspirations, after the group tracked her after she attended the National Youth Leadership Forum while still at South Side High School.
The conference follows and recruits those who show political interest. It offered inauguration tickets as part of a five-day package that includes frills like meet-and-greets (i.e. policy discussions) with the likes of Colin Powell and Al Gore, then it's off to Washington.
After a quick stop at the Indiana State House to push an environmental policy through state government, that is.
Walker is serious about this political life, though it's still a little overwhelming.
“I don't even think my mind can grasp the meaning of it yet,” said Walker, who worked for Obama's campaign. “Everyone keeps saying it's going to be so historic, so awesome. I don't even know. I think it will be a chin-on-the-floor kind of moment.”
She's hoping to see much more than just a ceremony, though.
“I'm looking forward to having a better human understanding of the government,” said Walker. “I think we have a tendency, especially in high school government class, to look at it as a system and forget all the parts of this system are actually people. That's what, to me, it's all about - looking at the human side of it. Realizing the human factor of government will be really nice.”
Walker will be blogging about her visit to Washington at http://christine-transitionofgovernment.blogspot.com.