Hundreds of students watched the historic presidential inauguration at their Weehawken schools Tuesday morning, and for once, youth wasn’t wasted on the young.
Projection screens were set up in the auditorium at Theodore Roosevelt School and in the theater at Weehawken High School, where kids were let out of class to take in the once-in-a-lifetime event. Some students wore Barack Obama T-shirts.
The faculty impressed upon their students how important the day was and would be in the future, recounting their memories of the 1963 Kennedy assassination and the 1969 lunar landing.
Principal Anthony D’Angelo told 180 students in fifth and sixth grade at Roosevelt School what the event would mean to them in the coming years.
“When you’re old like me,” Principal D’Angelo said, “you’re going to remember this day as a turning point in American history.”
At Weehawken High School, 300 students from 10th, 11th, and 12th grades cheered loudly during Obama’s acceptance speech – once even chanting, “Yes, we can.”
According to Principal Peter Olivieri, the high school is equipped with televisions in every classroom, allowing the seventh through ninth grades to watch with their teachers.
“All the kids were very enthusiastic,” Principal Olivieri said. “We took a survey before the election of all the students able to vote, and a majority was going to vote for Obama.”
Most of the students were well aware of the issues facing the nation.
“They understand about the economy,” Olivieri said, “and are all hoping that things go well. Everyone is excited to see a new President in office.”
Student Body President Gabriel Alba was looking toward the future.
“This election has shown us how far our nation has come,” Alba said. “[Obama] has a lot work to do, but he’ll do it.”
Although many students were eager to usher in a new era of American politics, Rosanna Percontino reminded everyone to be patient.
“Everyone is so anxious to see change in the next few days,” Percontino said, “but it will take some time.”
What it all means
At Roosevelt, Principal D’Angelo said that while many of the older children understood the significance of the occasion, the younger children only knew the day was important.
“The younger kids understood that it was important,” D’Angelo said, “but not exactly why.” Students from the third and fourth grades were brought into the library to watch the event where teachers could more fully explain the proceedings.
“I can tell my grandkids that I lived a part of history.” – Sophie Chong
Fourth grader Sophie Chong from Theodore Roosevelt School said, “This is a part of history and will be a memory for me when I grow up. I can tell my grandkids that I lived a part of history.”
Amna Shah, also a fourth-grader at Roosevelt, said that she was very happy to finally see President Obama get sworn in.
“It’s a big change,” Shah said. “I even forced my parents to vote for him.”