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FIELD TRIP IS ONE FOR HISTORY BOOKS.

Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

Drew Miner will be fitted for his first tuxedo today. It will have to be a fairly large one, since the Sheldon High School junior stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 340 pounds.

Known for putting much smaller boys on their backsides every fall, the all-league offensive guard for the Sheldon football team will soon be known for something else: attending Barack Obama's presidential inauguration on Jan. 20 as an "inaugural scholar."

"This is a pretty big opportunity," said Miner, 16, sitting in his parents' Coburg Road home just south of the Linn County line. "It's going to be something else."

He'll be going as one of about 7,000 top high school students from across the country, and one of 39 from Oregon, said his father, Matt Miner, himself a standout football lineman at Sheldon in the mid-1980s who went on to play at Oregon State University.

Drew Miner has been invited to attend the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference, sponsored by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council - a nonpartisan, independent organization based in Vienna, Va.

The students - who undergo a nomination and selection process to be chosen for the conference - will participate in roundtable discussions and debates with congressional staff, national journalists and military leaders. They'll have their own black-tie "Inaugural Ball," attend the inauguration as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swears in Obama as the nation's 44th president, and then watch the inaugural parade as the families of Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden make their way up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.

"I've told him how infinitely jealous I am," said Miner's Advanced Placement history teacher, Herb Hahn. "And I've told him to take plenty of pictures."

Hahn said a first-person account of one of the most historic and highest-attended presidential inaugurations ever wouldn't be a bad extra-credit project.

Miner said Hahn's class is the most difficult one he's ever taken. He has a 3.34 grade point average, he said, but got a "hard-earned C" in Hahn's class.

Miner said his favorite president is America's 26th, Theodore Roosevelt. "I'm an outdoorsman, and I can really appreciate him," he said.

And, if he had his druthers, Miner would be watching John McCain, the Republican nominee, getting sworn in three weeks from today. But he said he was torn between the Arizona senator and Obama as he watched the campaign progress. "I think Obama's pretty sharp, too," he said.

Miner won't be the only Sheldon student in D.C. next month, as the 53-member Sheldon choir is scheduled to perform during the inauguration festival on Jan. 19, the day before the actual inauguration.

Nor will this be Miner's first trip to the nation's capital. That occurred 10 months ago, when he made his first solo plane trip to participate in a six-day program called the National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security, also for high school students.

He was one of three students from Oregon to attend that conference. His adviser at Sheldon, social studies teacher Irene Alderman, suggested that he apply because of his interest in U.S. government and history. The annual conferences introduce students to careers in government service, diplomacy, intelligence and defense, along with question-and-answer sessions with civilian policymakers and senior military officers.

Those who attend are eligible to apply for the inaugural conference held every four years, along with those who attend conferences through the Congressional Youth Leadership Council. Miner applied and was accepted last spring.

Miner, who is interested in studying either pre-law, criminology or journalism in college and also hopes to play football (he's been contacted by Washington, UCLA, Brigham Young, Hawaii and others), said his interest in history and politics stems from a desire to "know a lot about your country. Knowledge will help you out in everything in life."

In addition to meeting with various officials and experts, inaugural conference attendees will visit historic sites and monuments, and have access to the Smithsonian Institution on Inauguration Day. They'll get to hear conference keynote speakers Al Gore and Colin Powell, too.

The trip will cost about $2,200, said Miner's mother, Angie Miner. The folks are footing the bill, said Drew Miner, who plans to pay them back anyway he can.

Asked if attending a presidential inauguration would top winning a state football title, as Sheldon did last year when he was a sophomore, Miner smiled and said: "I don't know. It's going to be close."
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Title Annotation:City/Region
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 30, 2008
Words:743
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