By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Sidnee Sawyer says it's one thing to read about American history in a textbook.
Seeing it firsthand is something else.
"It's a once in a lifetime experience," Sawyer said.
She's part of a group of Hamilton High School students that left Friday to take in historic sites in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., along with the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Hamilton social studies teacher David Artman organized the trip for 29 students and 15 chaperons, just as he has for the past two presidential inaugurations.
"They're getting excited," Artman said of the students before the trip.
With stops planned at Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the nearby Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, "we try to get them a little view of the beginning and maybe not quite the middle" of the nation's history, Artman said.
"They can see bits and pieces of history, not just the inauguration," he said.
Junior Abigail Felgar looks forward to seeing some of the interesting parts of the nation's past.
"I do like studying history. Some of it's boring, but I'm going to see the Declaration of Independence. What's not cool about that?" Felgar said. "It's exciting to know you're going to be seeing a part of history."
The fact that the president is from Illinois "makes it even cooler," she said, and visiting monuments and museums "will help with history class."
In Washington, the group will visit the Holocaust Museum, the National Archives, Ford's Theater and several monuments.
"We're going to Arlington National Cemetery, the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial," Artman said. "For me, the Vietnam Memorial is awe-inspiring, the Korean Memorial. The neatest one is the Franklin D. Roosevelt one, the way they have it set up. I'm looking forward to the whole trip."
So is senior Brooke Horner, who wanted to go on the trip her sister Brittany enjoyed four years ago.
"I saw how much fun she had, how much she learned outside the classroom. I wanted to get the same experience she did," Horner said.
On Monday, the students will watch the inauguration.
"For the first time, we will actually go see the parade. I think they need to see that part of it, too," Artman said. "While there, they will attend an inauguration ball given through the tour company World Strides. The president won't be there, but they'll be there with 3,000 to 4,000 students."
For nearly all the students, it's their first visit to Washington, and for some, it's their first time on an airplane.
Planning for the trip began in March 2011, with Artman meeting for the first time with interested students in April 2011.
Fundraisers ranging from pizza, poinsettia and Krispy Kreme doughnut sales, to a car wash provided spending money for students during the trip.
"It was tough, but worth it," Horner said.
Horner said she and the other students appreciate Artman's work on the trip.
"He doesn't have to do this. He volunteers for it," she said. "We are very thankful that he decides to do all this work and plan it."