When President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office Friday, six young people from Crow Wing County will be there to witness history.
"I'm still kind of in the mental state of, 'Wait, this is actually happening, and I actually get to do this,'" said Kirsten Schroer, 16.
Schroer and the five other area teenagers are involved in the county's 4-H program, some of 45 young people from Minnesota selected to take part in a four-day series of workshops, speakers, tours and a mock election culminating in Inauguration Day.
The program is a special offering of the 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus program, with goals of offering youths an inside look at the executive branch along with a history of the presidency, election process and the role of the press. The teens were selected through a competitive process and were required to answer essay questions, solicit letters of recommendation and complete a phone interview.
Selected from Crow Wing County were Schroer, Aaron Sopelle, Elise Sopelle, Emelia Hinrichs, Jack Kimbler and Madeline Hinrichs.
Kimbler is the son of Joe and Faith Kimbler of Pequot Lakes. He is active in the Pequot Lakes Eagles 4-H Club.
Schroer is the daughter of Rick and Susan Schroer, of Brainerd, and attends Brainerd High School. She is a member of the Baxter Sandpipers 4-H Club and is involved in many projects including performing arts, gardening, and health and safety. She is also part of the Crow Wing County Ambassadors, which is a youth leadership team.
The Sopelles are the children of Deanne Joy, of Baxter, and Richard Sopelle, and they are home-schooled. Aaron Sopelle, 16, is enrolled in photography through 4-H and plans to use those skills to document the trip. Elise Sopelle, 14, participates in performance arts, including oratorical contests on the Constitution.
"I'm excited to learn more about the government, and the role of media in the election," she said.
The Hinrichs are the children of Jody and Susanne Hinrichs of Brainerd and they attend Brainerd High School and belong to the Daggett Brook 4-H Club. Emelia Hinrichs is 14, and she focuses on technology in 4-H. She plans to make a digital presentation about the trip. Madeline is 16 and is involved in the Global Connections Project.
"It ties in globally to some things that are going on in our world, so this (the inauguration) will tie into that," Madeline Hinrichs said.
Their mother, Susanne Hinrichs, is regional director of the northeast region of University of Minnesota Extension and is one of 11 Minnesota adults making the trip. Like the young people, she also applied to go.
"We all agree-this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see an inauguration and be a part of this day at the nation's capital and the National Mall," Susanne Hinrichs said.
Each of the young people going pointed to different things they were looking forward to as part of the trip. Museums were high on the list, with trips planned to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Smithsonian and the Newseum. Emelia Hinrichs said she was interested in the night tour of Washington, D.C., and the opportunity to view several of the monuments. Following the inaugural address, the students will dress in formal attire, have dinner and dance as part of an inaugural ball event, a cruise on the Potomac River.
"I'm stepping outside of my comfort zone," said Schroer. "I'm usually one to not be caught dead in a dress."
Aaron Sopelle said he was excited for the mock election that would take place at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md. Sopelle planned to throw his hat in the ring for president.
"If he gets elected president, these guys might be his chief of staff, his cabinet members," Susanne Hinrichs said of the rest of the delegation.
With protests planned and Trump set to enter the presidency as the most unpopular of at least the last seven newly elected presidents, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, the Crow Wing County 4H-ers expressed some apprehension concerning the day's events.
"The nation was actually pretty much split in two over the Democrats and the Republicans," Aaron Sopelle said. "So what might be a little nerve wracking is the actual tension in D.C. going around. Probably a little bit of resentment toward the Republican side."
"I have a lot of LGBTQ-plus friends, and so they were very, very nervous on the outcome because a couple of the things Trump had originally talked about when he was running for president," Schroer said. "Seeing it all kind of play out, I'm sitting here going, 'Oh my gosh, will something happen. We know that there is a protest planned for when we do leave D.C. We should actually be out of the way at that time though, so we shouldn't be impacted by that."
Madeline and Emelia Hinrichs shared concerns about the possibility of riots.
"I'm also trying to look on the bright side, that we're going to the inauguration," Emelia Hinrichs said.
When the 4-Hers return from Washington, they will share their experiences in the community through presentations.
"I'm just really excited to share my entire experience," Aaron Sopelle said. "To actually witness history in the making is quite a big deal."
To request a presentation, contact the Crow Wing County Extension Office at 218-824-1065 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.