Local BG Club youth impressed with magnitude of inauguration

A group of teens and staff from the Parkview Boys & Girls Club of Huntington County met with U.S. Congressman Jim Banks during their recent trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the inauguration of Pres. Donald Trump. Pictured are (front row from left) BAGC Director of Operations Ashley Allen, Gabby Minick, Brianna McIntyre and Kristina Parker; and (back row from left) Tosha Davis, Banks and BAGC Program Director Desiree Frederick. Banks’ office provided the tickets to the inauguration.
A group of teens and staff from the Parkview Boys & Girls Club of Huntington County met with U.S. Congressman Jim Banks during their recent trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the inauguration of Pres. Donald Trump. Pictured are (front row from left) BAGC Director of Operations Ashley Allen, Gabby Minick, Brianna McIntyre and Kristina Parker; and (back row from left) Tosha Davis, Banks and BAGC Program Director Desiree Frederick. Banks’ office provided the tickets to the inauguration. Photo provided.

Originally published Jan. 30, 2017.

When the staff of the Parkview Boys & Girls Club of Huntington County considered who to take on a potential trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, they decided to pick members who were part of the club’s Smart Girls group.

“Originally when I signed up to get the inauguration tickets, I did that knowing that we may have the first female president,” explains Boys & Girls Club Director of Operations Ashley Allen. “I thought, if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be wonderful to take some of the girls from our Smart Girls program, and so we honed in on girls that participate in that program … We wanted to take girls who had been long-term members of the club, those who do well in school and who are involved with the Boys & Girls Club.”

As it turned out, a woman was not elected to the White House, that honor falling instead to Donald J. Trump. Nevertheless, the group of six who went to the nation’s capital to see him sworn in – consisting of two staff members, three club members and a club alumnus and national steering committee member – were impressed with the magnitude of the occasion and the awe that only “D.C.” can inspire.

Allen found out the club got the tickets for the inauguration only two weeks before the event, courtesy of newly-elected Rep. Jim Banks’ office. The staff chose Smart Girls members Kristina Parker, 16, a sophomore at Huntington North High School; Gabby Minick, 15, a freshman at HNHS; Brianna McIntyre, 13, a seventh-grader at Crestview Middle School; and Tosha Davis, 19, a freshman at the University of Southern Indiana, who is also a BAGC staffer and club alumnus. They were accompanied by Allen and Program Director Desiree Frederick.

The group left Huntington on Jan. 18, and returned the following Saturday, staying in Baltimore, MD, and riding the Metro into the capital each day. Various grant funding paid for the trip, Allen says. The journey itself was amazing for some of the girls, with it being McIntyre’s first time to leave Indiana.

“When I first heard I was going, it was like, ‘Are you serious?’ and my dad kind of played it off as a joke. Then, after a while, he told me that I was really going,” she recalls. “And, the drive on the way there was another surprise to me because I’ve never driven that long.”

At the inauguration ceremony, the group sat about midway in the throng that had gathered, but jumbo monitors allowed for up-close viewing of the proceedings.
“I was super-excited and it was a lifetime experience,” says Minick. “It was a fun experience seeing Donald Trump get sworn in, with (Vice President) Mike Pence, and seeing everyone’s reactions to Hillary (Clinton), with, like, Barack Obama, and how they were on the monitors.”

Davis, who was the 2014 and 2016 Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year and was also chosen to be one of 15 club members to serve on the 2016 National Keystone Conference Steering Committee, was no less excited about being at a presidential inauguration.

“I loved every minute of it. I felt like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she says. “I’m glad that I was given it, no matter who the elected president or the electors were. I think, no matter what party you stand for, it was a good opportunity just to witness history.”

McIntyre was also impressed with the grandeur and spectacle of the occasion.

“I didn’t realize how important the inauguration would be,” she said. “I was like, ‘this isn’t going to be that big,’ and then we got down there and I went, ‘Oh, this is a big deal.’”

Davis was thrilled to witness the 21-gun salute coming from cannons, not far from where they sat. She said the spectators “could literally feel the ground shake and you can feel your clothes vibrating on your own body.”

However, she was disappointed with what she felt was disrespect by some in the crowd during the proceedings. At some points in the program it was so loud that she couldn’t hear the audio coming from the speakers.

“It really didn’t feel like an inauguration; it felt more like a Trump rally,” she explains. “When President Obama had come out, there were so many people booing him and being the most disrespectful people there are. I don’t care who it is; he was our president for eight years, and you should not be disrespectful. I don’t know – I was just very disappointed in Americans for doing that, because it’s rude.”

Apart from the noisy crowd during the ceremony, the girls say they witnessed a largely peaceful transition of power.

The group also spent some time meeting Banks at his congressional office.

“I thought that was really cool, to meet someone up so high, who would actually meet us,” Minick says.

Banks’ staff also suggested some places to eat, after the girls faced a challenge trying to find a Popeye’s Chicken restaurant while the capital was overrun with a mass of people.

“Ashley wanted Popeye’s, and we drove around and found one, and it was closed,” Minick says, everyone giggling.

The search for food turned into a two-hour trial, Frederick says, with dead-ends at nearly every turn.

“We couldn’t find anything in the D.C. area,” she recalls. “Lots of streets were closed off; different areas were blocked off for the parade. It was an ‘adventure.’”
They fared better the next day, going to The Good Stuff Eatery, a burger restaurant made famous by reality TV show chef Spike Mendelsohn. Their experience made up for the night before.

The girls had little time left over for sightseeing, but they took a tour of the Capitol building, and also visited the Newseum, an interactive museum that promotes, explains and defends the First Amendment and free expression.

“When you go in front of it, they have the current front page of the paper from all 50 states, so we could see the Indianapolis Star’s front page, and like a paper from Alaska. It was neat to just see all that,” McIntryre said. “You could see how each different state covered what would be coming up.”

The front-page headlines were all about the inauguration, giving several perspectives on how it was covered by media across the country.

The night following the swearing-in ceremony, the girls were glued to their hotel TV to see how the broadcast media reported the news.

“It was interesting seeing all the events that happened that day,” Minick says. “I wasn’t expecting there to be a car on fire. It was somewhere near us, about two blocks away, but we didn’t see any of that.”

Davis, as a BAGC staffer, was excited to see the younger girls get the chance to be a part of a historic event.

“It was really cool to be able to take people who … don’t necessarily get the opportunity to leave that far away from home,” she says. “One of the girls that we took, that was her first time ever out of the state, and it was really cool to see her react to being out of the state. I just love when the club takes people places, because they give so many kids first-time experiences, and it was cool to see how kids react to that. That was probably my favorite part.”

Allen says although the focus of the trip shifted somewhat from what they had originally planned, it served as a great lesson to everyone about how the democratic system is supposed to work.

“I’m really hoping it showed the girls that regardless of how contentious a campaign may be and how much negativity there can be, that we still have that peaceful transfer of power,” she says. “This is still our president; we should still show deference to the office of President; that we can still come together after an election.

That became the new goal of the trip, and I think that in that sense it was a success.”