West High School senior Kyra Smith will have a seat to watch history on Jan. 20 when she joins tens of thousands of people at the National Mall to see Donald Trump sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
Kyra, 17, will attend the 58th Presidential Inauguration as part of a five-day Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit for high school students organized by the Washington-based Envision program. Envision helps elementary through college-age students explore career paths and learn leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
Kyra went to Washington in July to attend Envision’s Law and CSI forum after being nominated by her grandmother Teresa Smith, principal of West Valley Christian Academy. Based on Kyra’s performance at the forum and her GPA, she received an invitation at the start of the school year to attend the presidential inauguration.
Kyra said she was shocked when she received the letter.
“The program didn’t talk to us about that they would be picking some of us to go the inauguration,” Kyra said. “They never spoke about it, so I never thought I would be called back for the inauguration.”
She will share the experience with her grandfather Tim Smith, chairman of the Tracy Rural Fire District Board. Smith, 62, received a ticket for the inauguration with the help of Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, who represents Tracy.
“Few people get that opportunity,” Smith said. “I’ve never been with that many people. It will be amazing.”
While the two will travel together, Smith said they expected to be seated apart.
“They (the students) sit right up front,” he said. “I won’t be. I’ll be back in the crowd wherever.”
Kyra’s sister Kristen also participated in the Envision program and attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama eight years ago.
“Her sister got Obama, which was pretty incredible, and now she is getting Trump, which is pretty amazing,” said Smith, who said he voted for the president-elect.
Kyra said she never thought she would have to chance to witness the handover of power from one president to another.
“It’s one of those things where you think about it — is this actually happening?” she said.
The closest she has been to a president was a glimpse of Obama outside the fence of the White House during a visit to Washington when she was in seventh grade.
“We went by the White House, and of course none of us were like, We’re going to see Obama, but then his motorcade actually happened to come out while we were right there, and he waved to us because we were holding signs that said ‘Obama,’” she said. “Even just seeing his hand outside the limo, all of us were freaking out, because he is the leader and making all the decisions and protecting us.”
Smith said he had an encounter with then-President George W. Bush while attending a Christian education forum with his wife at the White House.
Kyra was selected to attend the inauguration before the election and waited to see who she would see inaugurated, but she said she didn’t have a strong preference for either candidate.
“In my viewing, I didn’t like either of them,” Kyra said. “They were both kind of crazy, but I did lean toward Trump.”
Kyra’s five-day stay will be filled with speakers, presentations and activities, with a break for the group of students to attend the inauguration. She hopes to come home with a better understanding of how government works.
“Right now, as my position how old I am, I don’t necessarily understand all the political side, all that mumbo jumbo. We just sit back and say, That’s our president — we don’t even get to vote,” Kyra said. “We get to see the process, see what needs to be thought about when you’re thinking about who you want to vote for, that side of it.”
She said she was thankful for the opportunity to see the pageantry of the transition of power.
“It will be overwhelming,” Kyra said. “It will be a sight to see.”
The inauguration ceremony is slated to begin with opening remarks at 11:30 a.m. EST Jan. 20 on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.