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Schoolcraft Learning Center seventh-grader headed to D.C. to watch inauguration

Marilyn Delaney, left, a math teacher at Schoolcraft Learning Community, nominated her student, Soren Dybing, right, for the People to People Ambassadors Program last spring. Dybing now is preparing to embark on a five-day trip to Washington, D.C., through People to People to watch the presidential inauguration in person. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – As 13-year-old Soren Dybing perused a list of potential trips, one distinctly stood out from the rest.

“I chose the presidential inauguration trip,” said Dybing, a seventh-grader at Schoolcraft Learning Community. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Dybing on Monday will be among the masses on the National Mall watching as President Barack Obama is sworn in for his second term in office.

“We’re thrilled for him,” said Dybing’s mother, Lara. “He’s always been fascinated by what’s out there (in Washington, D.C.), so it will be really good for him.”

The five-day trip, offered through the People to People Ambassador Program, will feature addresses from White House news correspondent Ken Walsh; Mary Jean Eisenhower, the granddaughter of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who founded People to People more than 50 years ago; and Kenneth M. Duberstein, former President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff. Other highlights include tours of D.C. monuments and memorials, a visit to Mount Vernon, and breakfast at and private access to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

“I’m looking forward to all of it, really,” Dybing said. “I just want to go to D.C. I’m just really excited to be there for everything.”

He also will attend the People to People Ambassador Programs Inaugural Ball, for which he got a suit.

“It’s my first one. I look a lot like my dad,” he said, referencing his father, Paul Dybing, a banker.

Dybing’s math teacher, Marilyn Delaney, last spring nominated Dybing for the People to People Ambassador Program, which offers domestic and international travel to students.

“He is really a student role model,” said Delaney, who has been teaching at Schoolcraft for 10 years, and has been Dybing’s math teacher for two. “People look up to him.”

Dybing said he enjoys school and likes different aspects of all subjects.

“Most of it does come pretty easily to me, but I really push myself to learn more,” he said. “It’s fun being smart.”

Trips offered through People to People are not free. While some participants opt to fundraise to cover their costs, Dybing’s family paid for him to go.

He considered a variety of available trips – such as a visit to D.C. to experience the inner workings of the U.S. government. – but it was the presidential inauguration trip that most drew his interest.

“There’s not very many (students) who get to go by themselves to D.C. and get to see an inauguration in person,” Dybing said. “I’m just so excited right now.”

He committed to the trip last year, before the presidential race was decided.

“At that point, I didn’t really care (who won); just seeing a presidential inauguration is a huge thing, a big experience,” he said.

As the election progressed, Dybing became more interested in its results.

“He was bugging me day after day to do a mock election,” Delaney recalled, laughing.

Now, he said, he’s happy with the end result.

“I would definitely say I was going more for Obama than Romney,” Dybing said.