De'Ontria McFerson is about to embark on a life-changing trip after she was surprised last week by Commissioner Loretta Smith to attend the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. McFerson, a Parkrose High School senior and former Multnomah County intern, has spent the week preparing for her trip to Washington, D.C. McFerson is blogging and documenting her experience and her trip in photos.
Follow her adventure here.
De’Ontria McFerson’s mouth gaped when her name was called at a schoolwide assembly.
Did she hear that right? President Obama plus the inauguration plus a ticket. For her.
The Parkrose High School senior wiped tears from her eyes as she made her way to the center of the school’s gymnasium Friday and embraced her former boss, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith. Students who filled the gym shouted her name and cheered for the 18-year-old McFerson.
Smith partnered with U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer to surprise McFerson, who worked in her office in summer 2012. In a video shown to students, Blumenauer told the crowd how Smith asked him to give one of his special inauguration tickets to McFerson.
McFerson was one of 50 Summer Youth Connect interns who worked for Multnomah County last summer. The paid internship program for low-income and at-risk students supports key interventions that prevent students from dropping out by connecting them to career pathways. The program is a joint effort with the City of Portland.
McFerson says her internship was invaluable and taught her to be more confident.
“Now I am more comfortable with being in meetings with people,” says McFerson, who is involved in a number of Parkrose programs including Elevate Oregon, SUN Community Schools, the Black Student Union and Youth Against Violence.
While at the county, McFerson spoke before the Board of Commissioners about the program and organized a weekly gathering for interns to talk about challenges and successes during their internships.
“She is exactly the face of what we need in this community in terms of helping our youth,” says Smith, who will talk to members of Congress about continued funding for Summer Youth Connect.
McFerson’s mother, Leslie Hubbard, who was also at the assembly, wiped away tears as she talked about her daughter’s reaction. “I could do nothing but cry because I was shocked. I mean, that’s the opportunity of a lifetime and she’s been doing really good. I’m really excited for her,” Hubbard says.
The trip next week will mark a series of firsts for McFerson. It will be her first vacation and first time to Washington, D.C. While there, she will also participate in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service project and talk with legislators about the importance of funding the Summer Youth Connect program.
With just a week to find an inaugural ball gown and to pack, McFerson is already thinking about what she’ll say to the president or First Lady Michelle Obama if she gets the chance. “Hopefully something does come out of my mouth,” McFerson says. “The first thing I’ll be saying is ‘hi’ and I’ll introduce myself. I’m not shy, but I think I’ll turn into a shy person.”
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