At 5 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 19, Elijah Sharma sat in a bus, patiently waiting to make one of the biggest trips of his life.
Millions of Barack Obama supporters from all over the country were gathering in Washington, D.C., to watch Obama's inauguration, and Sharma was hoping to join them and witness firsthand that historic moment.
Sharma, a senior at Guilderland High School, is the Northeast regional director for the Young Democrats of America High School Caucus, and through that organization, he was invited to see the inauguration.
The executive director and national committee chairman of the high school caucus contacted me shortly after the election and asked me if I was interested in going to the inauguration, Sharma said before he left. "I am very excited about going as we will also be touring some historical buildings and monuments thanks to some help from the office of Paul Tonko."
Beau Duffy, communication director for U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said it is important to give young people the opportunity to see the political process in action.
"They get a sense that they can influence policy and can shape the events that influence their lives," said Duffy.
"It's important they have a say. They get to help shape the future."
Sharma said he has always been interested in helping others and has become an advocate for many hot-button issues.
"I have always had a passion for helping. Helping people, animals, the environment, it doesn't matter. I just can never sit idly by when things aren't right," he said.
Sharma is also a member of the Northeast Regional Organizing for the Student Peace Alliance, a group that focuses on finding non-violent solutions to domestic and international issues, and was awarded an outstanding activist award from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.