WEST MICHIGAN — Whether in protest or support, local students, teachers, activists and advocates will be among the hundreds of thousands of people who are expected to be in Washington D.C. for the inauguration of Donald Trump.
"It’s an opportunity of a lifetime," said Laura Alexandria, who is making the trip with a friend to watch the candidate she supported become president.
"It is expensive, it is time off work but I really want to be able to say the words 'I was there.'"
It will be the first inauguration she's ever attended, but it's not Alexandria's first foray into politics. She serves as the director of operations for Right to Life Grand Rapids, a pro-life advocacy group which endorsed Trump's candidacy.
“I was very excited to see him win," she said. "I supported him from the moment he announced."
Hundreds of locals are also planning to bus to Washington D.C. to join several thousand others in protest during a 'Not My President' rally and the Women's March on Washington happening the day after the inauguration. One group is also working to match people with others to carpool to D.C.
Officials estimate 800,000 to 900,000 people will attend Friday's inauguration, which virtually takes over the city. President Barack Obama's second inauguration in 2013 drew more than 800,000. Obama's first in 2009 drew 1.8 million people.
Several area schools are also sending groups to attend, including Wyoming High School where roughly 20 students, teachers and parents have paid to make the trip.
"They’re going to see democracy at its best; they’re going to see the good, the bad and that’s what it is about," said John Doyle, who teaches U.S. history at Wyoming High School.
"You have to put aside your differences, whether you had your candidate win or not, it’s about seeing the process, the pageantry."
Doyle said he took a similar group of students to the 2001 inauguration of George W. Bush.
"This has been a very controversial election and I wanted to be part of it because it’s going to be a big part of history," said student Jim Hecksel.
The trip, coordinated through a company called 'World Strides,' cost each student roughly $1,200 for busing, lodging, food and entry into several tourist attractions. Many said they fundraised the money needed.
“I want to be able to tell my children and grandchildren, I went to this and I was there when that happened," said student Danielle Schumacher.