Quinnipiac University senior Jessica Pereira arrived in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. She's one of 38 Quinnipiac students attending a two-week seminar on the presidental inauguration, and will be present for the ceremony on Jan. 20. | Contributed
March 10, 2017 06:06PM
By Lauren Takores Record-Journal staff
WALLINGFORD — Local student Jessica Pereira is the first generation of her family to attend college, and in a couple weeks, she’ll achieve another first when she attends the presidential inauguration.
Pereira, who graduated from Sheehan High School in 2013 and is currently a senior at Quinnipiac University, is participating in a political science seminar called Inauguration 2017, which begins Monday and concludes with the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20
“We all signed up and agreed to everything before we knew which candidate would win,” she said on Friday, while riding in the car on her way to Washington. Students had to commit to the trip by Oct. 21.
Thirty-eight other Quinnipiac students also are attending the seminar at the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars in the nation’s capital.
She said the seminar is about the transition of power and uniting a nation, not politics or policy.
“This election was so divisive, I was interested in going, whichever candidate won,” she said.
The English major said her interest in politics was piqued by her internship at the Connecticut General Assembly last year.
“I learned so much, I started thinking about doing something related to politics,” she said.
She heard about the inauguration seminar from Quinnipiac professor of political science Scott McLean, the liaison who facilitated her internship at the state Capitol.
McLean has brought groups of students to the last four presidential inaugurations.
Quinnipiac professors Jennifer Sacco and Kathy Cooke also will accompany McLean this year, given the large number of students attending.
“Our students have a good reputation down in Washington,” he said, “and a lot of recognition when we say we’re Quinnipiac people.”
McLean said another 15 students had wanted to participate, and that he had never seen this much interest in the inaugural seminar. The previous record was 25 students.
The students are an eclectic mix of majors, ages and political leanings.
“I noticed students were very much disillusioned by the especially nasty nature of the political discourse during the election campaign,” he said. “The insults, the insinuations, the personal attacks really turned students off.”
Quinnipiac makes up the largest university group in program, he said. More than 340 students are expected to attend, according to the Washington Center.
“That’s a real presence,” McLean said Friday. “They can really set the tone and try to elevate the discussion, and really make this a thoughtful reflection on the coming political agenda in Washington.”
Going to the seminar is one thing, but tickets to the inauguration ceremony are not easily obtainable.
McLean said some students get tickets from Connecticut congressional representatives, and if they’re lucky they may make it into the VIP area, which is seated. If they don’t get into secured area, the public area runs from the bottom of Capitol Hill down to the Lincoln Memorial.
Many students opt to watch the ceremony remotely, instead of standing for several hours in the cold. Pereira said she’s planning to watch the inauguration on the National Mall.
“I feel excited,” she said. “My dad (who is from Brazil) was just so proud, talking about how many more opportunities I’ve had compared to him.”
“There’s always a significant number of students who said it was the best thing they did during their college career,” McLean said.