Local Riverdale student to witness inauguration

By Greg Gelpi

As the nation inaugurates its next president, one of the country's up and coming leaders will be on hand to witness it.

Riverdale High School junior Jazzmen Patton will be among the crowds of spectators and dignitaries at President Bush's inauguration ceremonies today.

Patton is participating in the Presidential Classroom, a program designed for high school juniors and seniors from across the country with leadership abilities to witness and experience the federal government at work.

"So far, it's been great," Patton said. "I've already seen President Bush."

Bush made an appearance and gave brief comments at the America's Youth Rocks Today concert, which featured musical acts, such as Fuel, JoJo and Hillary Duff.

Although he realizes that she will be part of history by witnessing Bush take the oath of office, she said it hasn't sunk in yet.

The program keeps her busy late into the night, Patton said. Along with attending the inauguration, Patton and other program participants have been seeing the sites in Washington D.C., meeting with national leaders, listening to speakers and getting an inside look at what makes the country run.

Among those Patton said she met were congressmen, judges and advisers for Bush and John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president who ran against Bush.

"Oh, my goodness," Brenda Patton, her mother, said. "I was ecstatic (at learning of her acceptance into the program)."

Family throughout the country shared her enthusiasm and pride, she said, and she plans to watch the inauguration and scan the onlookers for her daughter.

"I feel in the future she's going to be a very good leader because she likes to do things right," Brenda Patton said. "She doesn't like to do things half way."

Jazzmen Patton was nominated by a teacher and interviewed by Presidential Classroom before being selected to participate in the program prior to the presidential election.

"She just accepted the fact that it was a great opportunity no matter who the president was going to be," her mother said, explaining that Jazzmen is interested in leadership and didn't know who the president would be before accepting the opportunity to join the program.

Jazzmen Patton said she has learned to lead by "taking a back seat. "I don't feel that I have to be president or have a title to make a difference."

She is the oldest of four children. Her siblings are John II, 15; Julia, 12; and Justin, 11.

She is also active in Riverdale High's Beta Club, Delta Epsilon Chi, softball and soccer.