Chicago Sun-Times
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Obama inauguration: Illinois high schoolers fulfill "lifetime dream" in Washington

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WASHINGTON -- As teenagers, a group of Illinois high schoolers logged hundreds of hours of volunteering in last year's election.
This weekend, 14 of them were rewarded with an all-expenses paid trip to the U.S. Capitol where they will watch President Obama's ceremonial swearing in.
They are part of Mikva Challenge, a not for profit group that aims to get kids involved in civics.
"I think it's a validation that being involved in their communities and politics and government ha s a real significance," said Cristina Perez, who directs the elections program at Mikva Challenge. "They were rewarded for this trip also able to meet with some powerful people but were also able to ask some questions. (It is) also a validation that their involvement is worth it and it's going to pay off for them."
Among the schools represented: Chicago Military Academy, North Side College Prep, Gage Park High school, Social Justice and World Language, Maine West High School and West Chicago Community High School.
Carlos Mata, a Maine West High School senior who lives in Des Plaines said seeing Obama get sworn-in was just part of the reward for him.
"I'm very excited to be here," Mata said. "The most exciting part of this trip was visiting all the monuments, it was a lifetime dream of mine to visit the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the JFK memorial. Mikva actually made it possible for me."
Besides visiting the monuments, the students met with U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) on Sunday. The Mikva Challenge carries the namesake of Judge Abner Mikva, who, like Schneider, once represented the 10th congressional district in Illinois.

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