Grace Hallums, 15-year-old Ramona High School sophomore, will have a seat at the Capitol Building on Inauguration Day to watch President-elect Barrack Obama become the country’s 44th president. She will be participating in The Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference with 7,000 students from throughout the country.
Hallums credits her eighth-grade math teacher, Karen Ballew, with opening the door for her to have this opportunity. When Hallums was in Olive Peirce Middle School, Ballew nominated her to attend The National Young Leaders Conference in Irvine. It was four days packed with leadership development activities and meeting new friends.
At the time, Hallums had no idea the experience would lead to her invitation to attend the presidential inauguration in 2009. It came as a surprise when, a few months ago, she received a letter stating that, as an alumnus of The National Young Leaders Conference, she was invited to join other student alumni for a special four-day session in Washington, D.C., during the inauguration.
The opportunity will include many educational activities related to presidential politics and campaign strategy. Gen. Colin L. Powell, former U.S. secretary of state, and former Vice President Al Gore, a Nobel Prize winner, will speak to the group.
Hallums will have private access to the Smithsonian Institution, view the Inaugural Parade, visit the National Mall’s monuments and museums, and witness the inauguration, oath of office and inaugural address. The culmination of the conference will be an exclusive Black Tie Gala Inaugural Ball.
“I am really excited but also kind of nervous, because I don’t know anyone there,” commented Hallums. “This is the first campaign and election that I was really interested in and actually cared about the outcome.”
This is a proud moment for her parents, Debra Lambert and Burgess Hallums of Ramona, and for her relatives. Her grandparents grew up in the post-Depression and World War II era and experienced racial prejudice. They were not permitted to eat in restaurants in their towns because of the color of their skin. Now, their granddaughter will be at the Capitol Building watching an African-American become the country’s next president.