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Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind students Wasim Hussni, left, and Quike Lopez attend the presidential inauguration Friday in Washington, D.C.


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four Gooding students had an early wake-up call — before 4:30 a.m. — to witness Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration at the nation’s Capitol.

Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind students Wasim Hussni, Karlee Robinson, Zak Jones and Quike Lopez are in Washington, D.C., this week through an all-expenses paid trip to attend the Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit.

ISDB is among three schools — out of a pool of 35,000 entrants — to win a “Champions for Change” online contest through Envision and Discovery Education.

The Magic Valley teenagers are being exposed to national-level speakers and are witnessing a key moment in the nation’s history.

“The experience of seeing history happen live in front of them was a powerful experience,” ISDB principal Gretchen Spooner told the Times-News via phone Friday from Washington, D.C. She’s one of two ISDB chaperones on the trip.

“It’s really enlarging their world,” she said.

After the inauguration Friday, students were back in their leadership summit study groups, so they weren’t available to comment.

The ISDB teenagers are among about 2,000 students from the Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit from all over the United States and foreign countries.

Participants took 61 coach buses from their hotel in Virginia, leaving at 4:30 a.m. for Washington, D.C.

Students had to walk several miles to get to the National Mall and didn’t arrive until around 9 a.m., Spooner said. “The security lines were unbelievably long just to get in.”

Coming from a rural state, it was a shock for students to see such a large crowd in one place.

“I think was probably a first-time experience for any of them to be in a crowd like that,” Spooner said. “The buzz and the energy in the National Mall were quite high.”

Students were about halfway down the National Mall, near big TV screens and speaker systems.

There were captions on the screens, which was helpful for the two students who are hard-of-hearing, Spooner said. “For our two blind students, I just stood next to them and gave them a verbal description” until the speeches began.

Spooner said she saw many Trump supporters, as well as people with protest signs.

During the inauguration events, “I think students were impacted by just the responses of the crowd,” she said, including the cheering and booing.

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The leadership summit, Spooner said, is excellent and she’s impressed with the organizers. “They’ve really planned very well to meet the accommodation needs of our students.”

ISDB students are interacting with peers who are “high powered, and very full of energy and ambition,” she said.

On Thursday, students heard from speakers who helped prepare them for the inauguration. Presidential primary candidates Republican Carly Fiorina and Democrat Martin O’Malley were among them.

“That was very interesting for our students to listen to,” Spooner said.

The speaker who impacted ISDB students the most: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, the 19-year-old Pakistani activist who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman when she was 14. Jones and Robinson, who are hard of hearing, read her book in their English class.

During the summit, students are also divided into study groups and are tackling world problems such as how to promote peace and world health.

On the agenda for Saturday: more group presentations, and listening to speakers including Gen. Colin Powell and Spike Lee.


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