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Clarkson’s Lesyk volunteers at inauguration

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POTSDAM - Christina Lesyk awoke at 3 a.m. on Jan. 21 to catch the Metro train and arrive at the National Mall by 4:30.

It was a stark departure from her normal morning routine as Clarkson’s director of university events. But this was no ordinary day: Lesyk was volunteering at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Lesyk worked on the south side of the mall during the inauguration to organize crowds in that area. The event attracted between 800,000 and one million people. The crowds started pouring in soon after 4:30 a.m., she said.

“Our team ringed the National Mall and were the first ones to greet the guests and help figure out where they needed to be,” she said.

Lesyk was one of 15,000 chosen to volunteer out of 56,000 applicants from across the United States. “The Presidential Inaugural Committee did an amazing job in pulling all of these strangers together on very short notice and getting all of us organized in cohesive teams,” she said.

The energy level at the event was incredible, Lesyk said, though a hush fell over the crowd when Obama gave his inaugural address. She had flown down a week beforehand for training and was grateful to witness the peaceful transition of American presidential power, something that doesn’t happen in many other countries.

Attending the inauguration was especially poignant, as Lesyk’s father emigrated from China before she was born.

“As the daughter of an immigrant, and the first one in my family to finish college, I consider this a real service to the country I consider mine,” she said. “I would do it again.”

The inauguration was considerably larger than the Clarkson commencement ceremonies Lesyk plans each year, which typically draw 3,000 to 4,000 people. She wasn’t fazed by the large crowds.

“A million people? That’s no sweat,” Lesyk said. “To me, the bigger, the better.”

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