Sierra College student group to attend inauguration

They plan to lobby for education while in D.C.
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Michelle Magana of Lincoln said when she and eight other Sierra College students fly to Washington, D.C. to attend the presidential inauguration, they will be there for more than just some sight-seeing.

“We just want to make sure our voices are heard while we’re there at our nation’s capitol,” Magana said.

The students, will leave Thursday  and return Jan. 23, with a packed schedule giving them plenty to do aside from watching President Barack Obama get sworn in for his second term Monday.

They planned and arranged funding for the trip themselves, and Magana said she first raised the idea a year ago – long before knowing who their next president would be.

“We’re representing the Political Science Club, and we have so many different kinds of opinions on how people feel about him, (Republican challenger Mitt) Romney, or anything like that,” she said. “Regardless of who won, we still would have went.”

An Obama supporter, she’ll be able to celebrate a bit more. For Republicans, it could be a tough pill to swallow.

Dianne Foster, vice president of the Auburn Area Republican Women Federated, said, if she could, she would fly her flag at half mast for the 57th inauguration, which she “wouldn’t cross the street” to attend because of her views on Obama.

However, even she can see the value of the trip to students who are politically inclined.

“It’s nice the kids get to go – I’m not saying that’s a bad thing,” said Foster, who won’t be watching it on TV because it would make her “physically ill.” “I think it’s a wonderful experience for students. That’s a whole different subject matter because it’s an experience, regardless of who’s being inaugurated and the party.”

The students, accompanied by political science professor Winsome Jackson, will meet with 4th Congressional District Rep. Tom McClintock and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer during their trip. McClintock, R-Elk Grove, provided the group with inauguration tickets.

The cost per student for the trip is about $1,000, and they have received $3,500 in donations from the Associated Students of Sierra College and the Sierra College Faculty Association, as well as private contributions from family and staff, according to a press release from the college.

Greg Harnage, president of the Political Science Club, said the trip will give the group an immersive experience into the government, bringing to life the things they learn about in textbooks.

“Seeing it first-hand and witnessing history and meeting with your representatives brings a whole new perspective to the government,” said Harnage, a Roseville native. “It’s more of a bridge between California and D.C.”

Magana said the students will be lobbying for education, trying to do their part to ensure college remains affordable and more funding cuts don’t exacerbate a problem that is already brewing.

She is in her third year at Sierra and plans to transfer to Sacramento State later this year – a move that has been delayed because Magana had difficulty securing a spot in general education classes required to enroll at Sac State.

Elimination of classes coupled with high demand has been a temporary roadblock she has had to overcome, and the frustration is shared by many others in the student body, she said.

One semester, a class will be offered 10 times and only four the next, she added, and there are only about 30 students per course.

“I have to fight for all these extra seats,” said Magana, former vice president of the political science club. “It makes it so much harder to add the classes you need. That’s why it pushed me back a year to transfer from Sierra.”

Some students like Magana, who said she works at Wells Fargo as a teller and pays her tuition out-of-pocket, take general education courses at a lower cost at community college before transferring to a different school to finish their education.

She is studying business management and is pursing a career in event planning.

It will be her third trip to Washington, D.C., and she expects to rub shoulders with a lot of people.

“I’d probably say a good million people would be there, so the city is going to be complete chaos,” Magana said. “But it’s going to be fun.

“Watching him get sworn in … it’s different from watching it on TV – us being there in the 40, 30 degree weather and fighting to get to the front is going to  be the most memorable part.”


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews