Courtesy Carissa Hurdstrom
Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009 | 5:08 p.m.
Every four years, Mark Peplowski's political science class travels to Washington, D.C., to volunteer at the presidential inauguration.
This year, the group had to be content just watching the ceremonies. So many people volunteered that there wasn't anything left for the Nevada students to do.
On Monday, Peplowski, who teaches at the College of Southern Nevada's Henderson campus, and his 23 students joined 1.7 million people in watching President Barack Obama's swearing in.
Peplowski, who grew up in and lives in Boulder City, has offered the class to make the trip since 2001 and said this year's "inaugural externship" was the most popular.
He usually takes about 12 students, but this election's scope and historic significance got more students interested, he said, and more inspired to change their majors to political science.
"It's like Potomac fever," he said.
The group has traveled to Washington, New York City and Philadelphia in a whirlwind, to "try to instill ... the understanding that the government is made of people just like them, oftentimes with the same concerns and desires," Peplowski said. They leave to return home tomorrow.
His course spans American politics from the Revolution to the present, and this year, the historical significance of the nation's first African-American president played a big part.
The group arrived early this morning on the Washington Mall for the inauguration, then visited Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., in their offices.
They are scheduled to attend an inaugural ball tonight.
Carissa Hurdstrom, 21, a photography major in the class, received a press pass to take photos of the inaugural ceremony. She said she felt fortunate to be so close.
"I turned around and was facing 1.7 million people," she said. "It was extreme. I couldn't believe I had been so lucky."
Hurdstrom said the atmosphere was electric, even on mass transportation.
"It was so packed it was unbelievable," she said. "When the lady on intercom kept telling people to move back, people started chanting along and it became like a song with a couple hundred people.
"I definitely think Barack Obama is something new for the country, and something new I believe is what we need."
Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.