With help from parents, friends and donors (big and small), three journalism students from Bishop Mora Salesian College Preparatory High School were given the rare opportunity to attend two major events in the nation’s capital.Both President Barack Obama’s second inauguration and the annual March for Life, held just a few days apart in Washington, D.C., were attended by seniors Joseph De La Riva, David Manrique and Marco Rivas, and their journalism teacher Guillermo Vidaurri. In the March for Life, the Boyle Heights students joined fellow East Coast Salesians.The journey to Washington, D.C., had plenty of ups and downs, considering that the students and their teacher Guillermo Vidaurri were notified just two weeks before the inauguration that they were selected to receive tickets to attend the once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. But the story really started months before — as simply as, “Wouldn’t it be nice to…?”After writing an article in the school’s Salesian Spirit Magazine about a recent graduate who wanted to distribute artwork at the inauguration, the three youth realized they too would love the opportunity to travel and witness history in the making. Not sure how to get tickets, they wrote to their local representative, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) and were told that the congressman would consider their request.Of course, everyone thought their chances were pretty slim — but it never hurts to ask, right?In early January, when the word came down, “Yes, we have four tickets for you,” Vidaurri and students were ecstatic. Emails were going back and forth with huge exclamation points. Their joy, however, quickly diminished when they realized each needed about $1,250 for the trip. It was a lot of money for these young men who come from low-income backgrounds, one from a single-income family. The challenge: how to effectively raise the money in a short period of time? The students realized they needed to look outside of their normal circle. After setting up a website for donations, they composed a press release about their quest and sent it to the local media. Within a day, TV crews were knocking on their door. CBS and Telemundo picked up the human interest story and the students became instant mini-celebrities on the TV screen, in print publications and via social media. More coverage came from NBC, MundoFox and especially Telemundo’s morning show Buenos Días.Donations were coming in for the students, but the biggest came from AEG Worldwide, the owner of the Staples Center, LA Live and the Los Angeles Kings, which stepped in to cover the cost of airline tickets. With money still coming in (“We tried to tell people that we hit our goal, but they wanted us to have the money,” says Vidaurri), the students decided to use the extra funds for hotel rooms and new suits for the occasion. It was the first time any of the youth had brand new custom-made suits. Again, television captured the moment when the students were fitted for their suits.“It was a lot of attention on the boys and it was often overwhelming,” admitted Vidaurri. “But they said, ‘We can’t be rude,’ and they realized this is what it’s like to be in the public eye.”Salesian’s journalism group spent one week in the nation’s capital. “It wasn’t really a vacation at all,” smiled Rivas. “So many people were following us on the trip [via social media, blogs, etc.] and we had a lot of work to do. It was exhausting, but so worth it.”The jam-packed schedule had the students hopping from event to event as well as writing, and sharing their experiences. With that AEG connection, the students attended the star-studded Latino Inaugural Ball held at the Kennedy Center and hosted by actress Eva Longoria. They were given the honor of sitting in a private box along with many distinguished guests as they enjoyed a concert featuring Jose Feliciano, Prince Royce, Rita Moreno and Chita Rivera. The evening was highlighted by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and a surprise visit by Vice President Joe Biden. After the event, the students met and interviewed Latin music superstar Frankie Negron, and asked him about the chances of a Latino president (“Yes!”). On inauguration day, the students attended the swearing-in ceremony, inaugural address and parade. The day after the inauguration, they visited the Capitol Building, met with Congressman Becerra and attended live sessions of both the House of Representatives and Senate. In addition, the students followed up on their story about the Salesian alumnus who traveled to Washington, D.C., with 1,000 other artists from across the country to do free public art exhibits around the national mall. The California Salesians also met with students from the Youth Ministry of Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School. The journalism team was invited to attend various March for Life events, which they went to and reported on, further extending their D.C. trip for a good cause.“I think seeing Obama’s speech was a definite highlight,” said Manrique. “Standing in that big crowd and turning around and seeing everyone pay attention to his inspirational words. It was certainly history in the making. Seeing the core of our government was just amazing.”Indeed, the trip further fanned the students’ interest in politics and public service; Manrique is considering DePaul University to study political science, De La Riva hopes to attend Harvard and pursue a law career; and Rivas has accepted admission to Princeton University where he will major in political science in hopes of serving in public office.“I really enjoyed meeting our congressman in his office,” Rivas said of sitting down with Becerra. “I was struck how humble he was, how, even with all that he has achieved, he still gives off this ‘I’m just one of us,’ mentality. He is a great role model. I know so often people, especially young people, are apathetic and disappointed with politicians, but I want to make a difference and show that people can be public servants and not be corrupt or self-serving.”When they look back at not just the week in Washington, but the road that brought them there, the students again are struck by the generosity of strangers.“The fundraising seemed a little impossible at first but we thought it worth a shot,” said De La Riva. “I never will forget how exciting it was when we realized that it wasn’t a shot anymore, that it was going to happen.”And yes, the trip as De La Riva said, “was more like a business trip than a vacation.” It became an life-changing event for the students as well as their friends, families and well-wishers who shared their journey via blog posts and social media. "The trip was an extraordinary and unique experience, something that will hopefully motivate my students throughout their last year here at Salesian, and even more in their respective colleges and future careers,” said Vidaurri. “I am so proud of what they did and who they are.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0308/sgsalesian/{/gallery}