An opportunity to witness history as Barack Obama is sworn in as this nation’s first black president may be slipping through Natalie Holman’s fingers.
The 17-year-old Austin resident hopes to attend the Jan. 20, inauguration through an educational program. A senior at Walther Lutheran Christian School in Melrose Park, Holman is trying to raise money for the five-day trip that runs from Jan. 17-21. Holman couldn’t raise all of the $2,700 needed for the trip by the December deadline. So far, she’s raised $500 and is now on a waiting list, hopeful that a spot will become available.
“I want to be a part of history,” said Holman, who was too young to vote last year, but watched the campaign and election night closely. “When Obama made his [acceptance] speech downtown, people who went down there said, ‘I was a part of history. I was there when he gave his acceptance speech.’ Well, I want to say I was there when he was inaugurated.”
Carmen McClaskey, director of communication for the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, which is sponsoring the trip, applauded Holman’s efforts. She said if a spot opens for Holman, the money will be due upfront.
“I think that is great that she is fundraising,” McClaskey said. “[Natalie] would technically have more time than the other people who are already in, but she has to get that offer to come off the waitlist first.”
In addition to attending the inauguration and parade through the program, the nearly 7000 students will get a civics lesson on the president’s and Congress’ duties. Participants will also hear from several speakers, including former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Holman has sought donations from local businesses to no avail. She even sought help from benefactors who helped her attend a similar program last year, but the economy has everyone in a pinch, she said. Holman spent two weeks last summer in California shadowing doctors and observing surgical procedures as part of the National Youth Leadership Forum, a career submersion program for top high school students.
She was nominated for the program by her high school science teacher based on her grades-Holman has a 4.2 grade point average on a 4.0 scale.
“This is right after the California trip so people had already given me money, and so I was coming back again with something else, and they said the economic time wasn’t the same,” she said.
Holman wants to be doctor, a career path chosen because of her own medical condition. In 2007, Holman was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a rare condition that affects the intestines. Although active in sports, Holman said money is tight at home as her parents struggle to pay the $8,000 tuition for Walter Lutheran, a private school. As a result, Holman’s mother couldn’t take on any additional expenses. While Holman has come to terms with the possibility of not attending the inauguration, she still is hopeful.
Holman admits she’s unfamiliar with how government works and how policies affect people’s lives. The trip, she believes, would be a lesson in American democracy and will make her more politically active.
“What’s making me still want to go is that the [program] has been so lenient with me, saying that they will hold my spot,” she said. “They know my situation, but I’m still trying to get money.”