Friday, January 19, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 19, 2001

'Aiea High students travel to Bush inaugural

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

For a young man working like crazy to pay for a trip to the presidential inauguration, Kory Kawaguchi of Aiea didn’t pay much attention to who was going to win.

'Aiea High School teachers Neal Nakamitsu and John Goto display a banner identifying the group of Hawai'i students who will attend tomorrow's inauguration events in Washington. The students and their chaperons departed last week.

Richard Ambo• The Honolulu Advertiser

"Both of them I thought were really junk," Kawaguchi said of presidential nominees of the Republican and Democrat parties.

"From the beginning, I would rather have Bush, because I didn’t think Clinton was a good president, and Gore was with Clinton."

So during the campaign, "I really wasn’t into that too much."

What Kawaguchi, 17, really was into was selling enough Christmas wreaths, Christmas trees, candy, food and entertainment books to raise the $2,008 it costs him to see the "junk" one who won get sworn in as president of the United States.

Kawaguchi is one of 22 students from Aiea High School who will attend the inauguration tomorrow with the help of the Close Up Foundation, an organization that helps students visit Washington during spring break to see how government works.

Roosevelt High will also send a student, and others are coming from Waiakea High School on the Big Island and Baldwin High School on Maui.

They are among 4,600 Close Up participants from across the nation who will witness the swearing-in ceremonies and the inaugural parade, and attend special Close Up inaugural balls.

They will also conduct debates, attend seminars and meet with officials, politicians, lobbyists and reporters to learn more about the federal process.

There will be city tours, cultural events and visits to local universities as well.

The Aiea group left Oahu last week on a United Airlines flight to the Capitol and will return Sunday.

Aiea High teacher John Goto, who is accompanying the group along with teacher Neal Nakamitsu, said Tuxedo Junction donated 11 tuxedos for the young men in the group to wear at official functions, while the young women will wear prom dresses or the like.

Big Island Candies also donated cases of candy for the Aiea group to share as gifts to high school students from other areas joining the Close Up activity.

American Express, Tesoro Hawaii and J.C. Penney have sponsored Close Up’s work in Hawaii, Close Up spokes-man Dick Horton said.

Michael Tokioka, Aiea principal, said the excursion, a first trip away from Hawaii for many of the students, is "one of the most worthwhile trips a person can go on," and exposes participants to events and information that most people witness only from afar.

"It’s not from the textbooks or television, and I know each individual child really benefits from it," Tokioka said.

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