About 100 Lodi High students gathered in the school's theatre to watch the swearing in Tuesday of the country's first black president. Teachers Jeff Tillett and Jerry Pike were among those who made special arrangements to view via TV the 9 a.m. Oath of Office, and Barack Obama's first speech as president which followed.
Some students, including two from Lodi Unified School District, even attended the festivities in Washington, D.C.
Jennifer Gonzales, a 5th-grader at Manilo Silva Elementary in north Stockton, and Lodi Middle School student Edwin Pacheco were both participants in the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. Every four years, the national program provides inaugural scholars with a unique experience as they take part in the inauguration ceremony.
Students who didn't get to fly to the capital settled for watching it at school. Among those was junior Nickole Rodriguez who said it was nice for her peers to watch it together.
"It was nice that we got to experience it together, to bond, knowing it was something in history we were a part of," she said.
Lodi High freshman Mack Norton seemed awestruck after he viewed the ceremony in the school's theatre. "I was thinking about how many people were watching this all over the world at the same time."
But planning just to watch the speech at Lodi High School started last week.
Principal Bill Atterberry said faculty first tried to hold an all-school assembly in the school's gymnasium, but couldn't find a projector powerful enough to project an image bright enough onto the large screen unless all of the lights were turned off.
Staff then tried to work with teachers to watch the event over the Internet, but it proved difficult given the bandwidth the district subscribes to. There is no cable TV service on campus, Tillett said.
Finally, teachers decided to set up TVs with "rabbit ear" antenna in some classrooms.
"Here's this opportunity to get involved, and we really can't do much. There are a lot of students excited," Tillett said.
In Lodi High's administration office, Terri Scott, Atterberry's administrative assistant, tuned in on the same tiny black-and-white office TV set on which staff watched the events of Sept. 11 eight-and-a half-years ago.
She said as long as the antenna is up against the window, the picture is clear.
Economics and government teacher Greg Wright used binder clips and a radio cord to create a makeshift antenna for his portable classroom TV.
He started third period talking about the event's significance as ABC News' live coverage off the event played behind him.
Wright told the seniors that he researched why past inaugurations weren't as widely watched on campuses. He said that Bush's first ceremony actually fell on a Saturday, when school wasn't in session, while his second was routine, being that it was a re-election.
"I remember the social studies classes watched it, but not the entire school. A big event like this, schools seem to want to stop (for it)," he said.
Lodi High graduate attends inaugurationFor Harrison Meyers, one of the most impressive moments of Tuesday's inauguration ceremony was standing near the reflecting pool of the National Mall and just seeing "thousands and thousands" of people in either direction.
"The scene was magnificent, grandiose, just really, really large," said the 18-year-old Meyers, speaking on a cell phone at a reception hosted by Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.
Meyers said he secured his ticket through McNerney's office. The 2008 Lodi High School graduate attends George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he studies political science.
The college student said he doesn't have political plans but is considering a career in law. He still found the new president's speech to be inspiring.
"Barack's speech was just amazing. It was really on point," he said. "It sounded very much like an FDR speech."
Meyers showed up at the Mall at 4:30 a.m. to wait during the freezing morning weather to enter the ticket area. The one downside of the day came after Obama's speech, when Meyers said it took an hour-and-a-half to make his way out of the thick crowd.
"It was a nightmare," he said.
Meyers didn't have tickets to one of the many inaugural balls, but he was confident he'd be able to find a few inaugural parties to attend later in the evening.
Teachers at Tokay High, too, rigged TVs with antennas to watch the event live, while some were able to view it on the Internet in the library.
Others, like U.S. history teacher Jeff Tracy, said everyone understood the historical significance.
"We definitely talked about it," he said.
Delta College sophomore Emily Nantt, who tutors at Lodi High, said she hoped the students in the theatre were there because they wanted to be, not because their teacher forced them to.
"I guarantee you, if this was McCain, it wouldn't be shown by teachers," she said before adding that it was a good speech and the new president addressed many of the country's main issues.
In Galt, teacher Alex Bauer said his high school government students would watch speech excerpts during class today.
At the elementary level, Terry Metzger, principal of Marengo Ranch Elementary in Galt, said many teachers watched the swearing in with their classes, but there were no special activities planned.
"We tend to keep it simple when it comes to anything political," she said, referring to the age of the students. "We acknowledge the historic event, but leave it up to the parents to go into as much detail as they feel comfortable with their young children."
At Greer Elementary in Galt, students watched the speech at a school-wide assembly Tuesday afternoon.
Angela Banbury had her fifth-graders at Valley Oaks Elementary watch the president's speech and followed it with an open letter to Obama.
They wrote down the different points that he talked about in his speech and provided for him pointers on what to tackle in the next four years. The writing activity was to be completed at home.
Galt Elementary Superintendent Karen Schauer said she was impressed with the thought students were giving on this inauguration, especially given their age.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at email@example.com.