NORTH ADAMS -- On Monday, 14-year-old Billy Galipeau will get the chance to do something most adults will never do: The Drury High School eighth-grader is traveling to Washington, D.C., to witness President Barack Obama taking the oath of office for his second term, and to attend the Middle School Presidential Inaugural Conference.
"I knew that this was really something, to be able to do this," Galipeau said.
From Saturday to Wednesday, Jan. 23, 800 students in middle school, 1,900 in high school and 900 in college will learn firsthand about presidential campaigns, the electoral process and the presidency at three conferences for the different age groups.
It was Galipeau's alumni status from the National Young Leaders State Conference in February, 2012 that led to him being offered the chance to travel to Washington.
Middle school students will see a special screening of the documentary "The Third Monday in October," which follows 11 students running for election in their middle schools, and get a chance to meet with the film's director, Vanessa Roth. Galipeau and others will also hear keynote speakers Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, daughters of former president George W. Bush. On Inauguration Day, students will have exclusive access to the National Mall before the general public is allowed in.
Galipeau said along with seeing Washington, D.C., for the first time, he is looking forward to meeting people from across the country.
"It will be interesting to see the differences between a kid from Massachusetts and California," he said.
Part of the expense was paid for with funds raised by a spaghetti dinner in June 2012, which drew in many community members. Galipeau also received a scholarship for his essay on issues the president will face. Galipeau wrote that though a president will face many challenges, they must also balance the needs for the people.
"They have to be open to all ideas, but also have strong ideas of their own," he said.
Galipeau's mother, Susan, said she has always tried to teach her son that participating is important.
When she volunteered for North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright's first mayoral campaign, William was right there with her.
"He was only 11, and he was out holding a sign for him," she said.
Billy has remained active in the community, volunteering with the Northern Berkshire YMCA's ROPES summer program. He said he is thinking of someday studying engineering, and is planning to apply to McCann Technical High School's electrical program.
Susan said she is very proud of everything her son has accomplished, both inside and outside of school. At the end of seventh grade, William was the valedictorian and had the most awards. He is also a passionate baseball and basketball player.
"He's quite the young man," she said. "And I'm just happy that he had these chances to do these great things."
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