Marisa Magallanes had never been to Washington, D.C., but that changed on Thursday when she flew to the nation's capital for President Barack Obama's inauguration on Monday.
"I'm super excited," the 22-year-old Sierra College junior said while packing her bags. "It's going to be eye-opening."
Magallanes is part of a group of nine students and one professor all from Sierra College who will represent Placer County at the inauguration.
During their time in Washington, they will visit several landmarks, including the Capitol, the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center.
Also on the itinerary: a meeting with Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, whose district includes Sierra College.
"People feel like Washington is out there doing its own thing," said Greg Harnage, president of the Political Science Club at Sierra College. "My goal is to bridge that, to get a better understanding of government."
A year in the making, the trip was the brainchild of fellow club member Michelle Magana, who said she hopes to lobby policymakers on education issues.
"I want to make sure our voice is heard," said Magana, 20. "It's about keeping education affordable."
In the three years she's attended Sierra College, Magana said, tuition has nearly doubled, so she has taken on two jobs to pay the bills.
"I have to work all week pretty much. I don't have a social life," she said.
Planning the trip to D.C. has been far from easy, with the pricey hotels and plane tickets being the main challenge. The group has raised $3,500 in donations from students and faculty, but the trip will likely cost $10,000.
For Magallanes, attending the inauguration is particularly important.
"People think their voice doesn't matter, but having students at the community college go means it's possible to be that close to the president," she said.
Political participation by youths has remained historically weak, but a study last November by the Center for Research and Information on Civic Learning and Engagement indicates that Republican challenger Mitt Romney would have won a few swing states had he scored the youth vote.
There's one thing Magallanes said would make the trip even better meeting the president.
"But he's going to be super busy," she said.