CHEROKEE — Plane tickets, check. White House clearance, check. Inaugural ball gown, check.
On Jan. 16, Cherokee High School English teacher Kathy Hays will be en route to Washington, D.C., to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
She was there four years ago when Obama was inaugurated the first time. But that doesn’t make this occasion any less special.
As a member of the People to People Leadership Ambassador program since 2007, Hays was invited to a return trip where she’ll be part of an alumni group of ambassadors and U.S. and international students participating in educational tours and attend the Ambassador Program Inaugural Ball and ultimately the inauguration Jan. 21 on the National Mall.
Hays said the weeklong event is about seeing the vision of Dwight D. Eisenhower. In his presidency, Eisenhower established the People to People educational program to help bridge the gap between cultures and create a better understanding of the need for world peace.
“He also realized the need for young people’s involvement in that,” Hays said. “This conference, while focused around the inauguration, also is an educational lesson on our U.S. history. The students who’ll be attending are those who’ve traveled with People to People before and want to expand their horizons.”
And while the inaugural festivities are a major part of the trip, Hays said she looks forward to creating new relationships.
“All these people united for a common purpose is phenomenal,” she said. “The relationships these students, and the teachers form, last a lifetime. Now, with (social media) they can keep up with each other easily after the week ends.”
Hays and other teachers on the leadership team will each be responsible for 14 students.
While in D.C., they’ll hear from keynote speakers such as Ken Walsh, the chief White House correspondent for U.S. News and World Report; Mary Jean Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower; and Kenneth Duberstein, former President Ronald Reagan’s White House chief of staff.
The group also will visit famous museums and memorials, lay a wreath at Arlington Cemetery, tour the Library of Congress and U.S. Capitol among other activities geared specifically toward their group.
Colbert County schools superintendent Anthony Olivis described Hays as a dynamic teacher whose invitation to the inauguration reflects well on the school system.
“She’s actively engaged in bringing culture and history back to the classroom,” he said. “This is an honor for her to be selected and her students will benefit from the information she brings back to share.”
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.