Just minutes before President Obama pledged to serve his country and the Constitution during Tuesday's inauguration ceremony, a buzzer blared at Greenbrier High School and hundreds of students watching the proceeding scattered back to class.
Those who remained in the school's auditorium, where the inauguration was projected onto a screen, seemed inspired by the historic moment.
Greenbrier senior Jerron Walsh, 17, skipped lunch to watch live coverage of Obama's swearing-in ceremony and first speech as the nation's 44th president.
"It inspires me," said Jerron, of seeing another person of color attain the nation's highest office. "To see this makes me feel like so many doors have been opened that were closed before. Now, I believe I can do anything."
Greenbrier English teacher Jason Lucey intends to use Obama's presidency as a vehicle to share Jerron's sentiment with his 2-year-old daughter Sienna.
Lucey is white, and his wife, Marina, is of Asian descent.
As a family, the Luceys witnessed Obama's meteoric rise through the political ranks and drew inspiration from it.
"I remember watching Obama's speech accepting the Democratic nomination with my family and crying," Lucey said. "Even though my daughter is too young to fully understand what's happening, she'll still be able to say that she watched history in the making."
Obama opened doors not only for blacks, but all minorities, Lucey said.
"My daughter says she wants to take a rocket to the moon," Lucey said. "I tell her that one day she can do that. She'll be able to do that and so much more; anything she wants."
Like Greenbrier High, all county schools were encouraged to show the inauguration in classes and develop lesson plans about the event, said Columbia County Associate Superintendent Lauren Williams.
But while her Greenbrier classmates watched the inauguration from an auditorium or a classroom, sophomore Raleigh Noland, 15, witnessed the event in person.
Raleigh and her friend Emily Leszczynski, 15, were two of about 15 area students who attended the event in Washington, D.C. The teens went as members of the national Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference.
The girls said that a sense of hope and vindication pervaded the crowd at the inaugural event.
"A lot of them were crying and jumping and screaming," Raleigh said of black spectators at the inauguration. "You could tell they were really proud. You could tell that they finally felt accepted after so many decades of discrimination."
Emily's most moving moment of the event came not from a singular speech, but from a group recitation of the Lord's Prayer.
"Everybody in the audience starting saying, 'Our Father' together," she recalled.
For junior Raveen Boober, Obama's inauguration inspired more than a sense of hope or a feeling of unity; it came with a promise for a better future.
The 16-year-old black teen said she now looks forward to one day telling her children something she never heard growing up: "'One day,' I'll tell them, 'you can be president.'"
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.