WASHINGTON, D.C. – Christian Holt saw all the sights and made all the usual stops of an ordinary first trip to Washington, D.C. Then on Tuesday Jan 20, the 12-year-old student at Frazier Preparatory Academy on the West Side saw the inauguration of America’s first black president.

For Holt and his fellow fifth- and sixth-grade classmates, watching the inauguration of Barack Obama from the National Mall marked the pinnacle of a weekend visit to the nation’s capital that was anything but ordinary.

“I’m astounded,” Holt said. “The buildings, the places, the statues – everything in D.C. has been just astounding.”

Holt and his schoolmates earned the all-expenses-paid trip courtesy of the McCormick Foundation and the Best Portion Foundation, a sponsor of the predominantly black West Side charter School at 4027 W. Grenshaw. All 24 students were selected based on an essay, an interview, citizenship scores and grades, according to Frazier principal Lakita Little, who traveled with the students.

The jackets the students received as part of the package came in handy in the early hours of inauguration day last Tuesday, when pre-dawn temperatures sank into the teens. The group left their hotel in Arlington Va., at 4 a.m. to try to win space on the mall.

“This is Christmas in January for them,” Little said. “When we flew from Chicago to Detroit on a small plane, the students thought we had a private jet.”

Each student received a digital camera from the McCormick Foundation on the condition that they use it to record their experiences. They each also had to blog every day on a Web site the foundation set up for the trip: www.sharemyinauguration.com.

“It’s been fun to get to see the city through their eyes – they soak in everything, said Little.

The school began planning the trip in August, and was committed to coming no matter who won the November election. That they were able to come and see Barack Obama inaugurated made the trip even more educational, Little said.

“As an educator I have examples of black lawyers and black engineers that I can show them. Now when they say they think they can do anything when they grow up, I tell them, you sure can.'”