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Junior High Student Attends Obama Inauguration
Aahil Hussain is standing next to the award he received through the Presidents Education Awards Program, recognized for outstanding academic excellence. Hussain is a seventh grader at Oakdale Junior High School and had the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC for the recent Presidential Inauguration. - photo by Virginia Still/The Leader

It’s not a trip he will forget. Ever.

Oakdale Junior High School seventh grader Aahil Hussain has returned from a trip to Washington, DC, where he was able to see the inauguration of President Barack Obama for his second term.

The honor came as part of a special program and Hussain also was fortunate to receive the President’s Education Awards Program award. The award is for outstanding academic excellence. Not only does the award have the president’s seal, but it also has his signature. It was one of the added benefits of the trip.

The President’s Education Awards Program (PEAP) is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The award was developed to help principals recognize and honor students who have achieved high academic goals through hard work and dedication to learning. In order for a student to be eligible for the award they must meet certain requirements, like a high grade point average, high scoring on state tests, or a recommendation from a teacher plus one other staff member. The school principal has the final authority to determine which students receive this award.

Every quarter Oakdale Junior High School has an awards ceremony to recognize the honor roll students and at that ceremony Hussain was also given the PEAP award. After Hussain was given the award he received a letter in the mail from the People to People Student Ambassadors program. The program is an international educational travel program that goes to all seven continents for students in grades five through 12 and college. Typically, the program runs between 14 to 23 days and features different activities to build independence and maturity. They offer different programs to the students once accepted into the program like traveling to foreign lands or specific destinations. There is a charge to participate in the Student Ambassador program and an interview process. If the student is accepted then they must go through pre-travel preparation and attend orientation meetings. The students are also given specific assignments to complete. The experience begins months before the student actually takes flight.

Hussain was accepted into the Student Ambassador Program and participated in the trip to the President’s Inauguration in Washington., DC on Monday, Jan 21. He was given a sealed envelope that he had to give to one of his teachers so they could give him a recommendation, according to his mother, Lubna Hussain. The journey to the inauguration started on Friday, Jan. 18. Hussain caught a flight Friday morning and traveled solo as an unaccompanied minor. Once he arrived in Washington, DC the People to People group had representatives there waiting for him at his gate. There were several students his age from other states that were in his group. Every morning they would have a guest speaker address them and then they would get on a bus to do some sightseeing. The group had a guide that took them to several different places like the Lincoln Memorial, George Washington’s house and grave, the reflection pool and Martin Luther King’s memorial, to name a few. The day of the inauguration they got up at 3 a.m. and left the hotel by 5 a.m., in hopes of getting there before the bulk of the crowd. At the inauguration itself, along with all the pomp and circumstance, Hussain said he noticed that there was a large military presence and that there were also snipers, keeping watch on the crowd. He expressed that he really enjoyed making new friends and seeing all the memorials, in addition to attending the inauguration.

“It’s a very amazing experience that you can keep forever,” said Hussain.