Last month, Youth Today published a story about a group of elementary, middle and high school students who were to receive special access to President Barack Obama’s inauguration week festivities. As it turns out, many of the 15,000 students who attended the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference got considerably less than they anticipated.
Congressional Youth Leadership Council (CYLC), the company that arranged the five-day event, is facing criticism from angry parents after some students missed key events, were kept waiting for hours at airports, and in some cases were left to wander through Washington unsupervised.
More than 400 parents have joined a blog that details the negative experiences of their children, which included languishing in hotel rooms, missing the inaugural concert on the National Mall, and arriving late for key speakers, such as author Doris Kearns Goodwin.
CYLC co-founders Barbara Harris and Richard Rossi apologized to unsatisfied parents and students in a statement.
“As an organization and as a former teacher and lifelong educator myself, we take our responsibility very seriously to deliver a high-quality educational experience to our scholars, and have successfully done so for nearly 25 years,” Harris said in the statement. “While the vast majority of students who participated in the program had a positive experience, we now know that some said they did not, and for this we are deeply and genuinely sorry.”
The company has created a $1 million compensation fund and hired former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti to conduct an independent review, according to the statement.
Leann Welton, an organizer for the parents’ blog, said in an e-mail that parents are preparing to file a lawsuit against CYLC. She called the $1 million fund a public relations “ploy” that will not provide full refunds for parents, who paid $2,500 for the conference, in addition to travel expenses such as airfare.