Howard Preschoolers Visit White House

Published April 24, 2009

WASHINGTON (April 23) -- They had been waiting for weeks, and on Thursday, the special event that had some giggling with anticipation and others unable to sleep finally came.

They went to the White House.

There were 22 of them, pre-schoolers from the Howard University Hospital Child Development Center, and they were going to see the nation’s first African-American president.  The center was selected for the outing after responding to an open invitation for a White House tour issued by D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

So at 8 a.m. Thursday, they boarded a small, white shuttle bus from their school to the White House and about two hours later they tumbled out of the home of President Barack Obama and his family singing, dancing and overjoyed with their journey.   

They saw the president’s guest dining room.  They peered at the conference room where he holds some of his high level meetings.  They saw photos of Obama and his family.  They went to the pressroom and stood exactly where the president stands during his press briefings.

And which was most memorable for Christian Freeman, 4?

“My favorite room was the red room,” he said, which he said is also his favorite color. 

Amora Altmon, his 3-year-old classmate, disagreed.

“The blue room,” she exclaimed, was the best room.
The adults were just as excited about the tour.  Regina Mapson, preschool coordinator for the Center, said she had spent days in anxious anticipation.    

“I could not go to sleep last night,” she said.

Connie Daniel-Siler, director of the child development center, said she laughed after one of the children asked during the tour “When are we going to see Obama?”

The children and seven Center staff members who accompanied them did not get to see the star of the nation’s capital, but ironically, they became celebrities as the tour progressed.  Throughout the tour, White House staffers snapped shots of the tots, cooing about how “adorable” they were.         

They were certainly dressed for the occasion. Girls wore colorful dresses accented by stockings while many of the boys sported ties, including a bow tie.

It was ironic that the trip came when it did, Siler said.

“This week is the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Week of the Young Child,” she said. “That’s a week where you are to honor children. I think this came at a very good time.”

Established in the late seventies, the Center is a pre-school program for the children of hospital and university employees, university students and LeDroit Park neighborhood residents.

Accredited by the National Association for the Education Young Children since 1998, the Center employs more than 15 staff members and provides care for 43 children. More then 1,200 children have been cared for by the Center.       

One parent, Dr. Wendy Greene, associate director of Trauma and Critical Care at Howard University Hospital, joined her daughter, Chloe, on the trip.

“I want them to know how historical this point in history really is,” Greene said.  “It’s more than just the house.”

Written by Candice Harding, Special to BET.com

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