Most of us had to watch the historic inauguration of President Obama on television or a personal computer, but an outgoing 22-year-old Niagara University admissions counselor was among the estimated 2 million people on hand in Washington, D.C.
Kaylin Ranagan led a group of young teens as part of the Congressional Youth Leadership Council's Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference -- and said she got to Washington by way of the Emerald Isle.
Ranagan graduated last year from Niagara University with a degree in elementary education, and is working on her master's degree in education literacy while she works at NU. She said she plans to teach elementary school in the future.
She spent her junior semester at Niagara studying abroad in Ireland and met a friend who now works in Washington putting on conferences for young scholars. He was working on the Presidential Youth Leadership Conference and recommended her for a role in the conference because of her experience in education.
Ranagan, a native of Clifton Park, near Albany, used a digital camera to record photos and videos of some of the inauguration events and the young people she had led and taught.
The conference also included its own inaugural black-tie gala and conference keynote speakers, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and two Nobel Prize winners: former Vice President Al Gore and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Young leaders who have participated in the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, now in its 23rd year, are offered a chance to participate in the Youth Inaugural Conference, which meets every four years. Top students from across the country are selected to participate, based on academic performance and community leadership. Each student is selected for nomination based upon academic achievement or classroom surveys.
>You said a trip to Ireland got you involved in the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference.
I had a friend I met in Ireland who is from South Dakota who started working for Envision EMI (Educate Motivate Inspire). They put on the conference, and he knew my background in education and asked me to be part of the inauguration. We didn't even know who was going to be [elected].
>When was this?
This was back in September.
>So this must have made the race much more exciting.
We were going to see it eventually, so I paid more attention to the news, and I found myself on CNN.com. So yes, I found myself doing a lot more research, and here on campus I went to the presidential debates and asked questions about education.
>So had you picked the candidate that you got to go see at the inauguration?
I'm probably one of the most indecisive people, and I'm registered as in independent, but I did end up voting. I'm a supporter of Obama and was excited not only to see an African-American president, but to see the changes this is going to bring for our country.
>What was your role in Washington?
I was a faculty adviser. I had 24 high school seniors, but there were younger children in a junior program. The kids were great. They kept in touch and friended me on Facebook. They're a blast.
>What did you do with them there?
We had [presidential group meetings], which were like a classroom, and we would learn in a classroom or even on a bus, since it was such a large group. It was hard sometimes. There were 7,000 kids.
There were 7,000 in the PYIC, which was my group, and another 2,000 in the junior PYIC and 3,000 in the university program. It was an astronomical amount of students to keep track of. We had 49 scholars on my bus. Drivers came from all over the U.S., and we took up 63 hotels.
>We're you surprised how big it was?
Yes. That's bigger than Niagara University. It was mind-blowing, the amount of people.
*And then you multiply it by the amount of people who were there for the entire inauguration.
I've been to concerts before, but I've never been in such a big crowd. It's something everyone has been asking me. I couldn't pick up my arms to clap. It was just crazy. It was amazing. There were no words to describe the feelings.
>How did you document it?
I took over 350 pictures throughout the week. (Including photos of crowds of people who sat in the trees and on top of port-a-potties just to get a closer look).
>Do you have something that is the "perfect thing" to remember?
I think the black-tie gala with the students. They were the whole reason for being there. They were just an awesome group, and they were from all over the world [and the country]. I had a boy from England and one girl who was from Puerto Rico. They were the best.
>Were you close enough to see anything?
We were posted at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel until 9:20 a.m. [in case a student had a problem], but in that time they had closed off all the blocks up to 14th Street. So we were really far away, but I think the students got a lot closer. But I was just happy to be there with my friends.