When President Barack Obama is sworn into office at noon today for the 56th Presidential Inauguration, some UF students will be among the millions there.
Members of UF's Black Student Union will face huge crowds and freezing weather to attend - without tickets - the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president.
"I just feel like, as a black man, it is very important that I be present because this is a landmark moment for the nation," said UF sophomore Andre Haughton, adding that the event also carries personal significance. "It's like this is the last glass ceiling being broken for me, so I think it's important to be there."
The day after Obama was elected, BSU began planning its trip.
UF sophomore Sarah Janvier, who planned the trip as co-director of BSU's social cabinet, reflected on the historic nature of the event.
"When Obama won, I cried," Janvier said. "So I can't imagine what I'm going to do during those moments. I know I am excited beyond belief to know that I'm just getting the opportunity to be there."
While BSU travelers will not be among the 240,000 ticket holders in the reserved area at today's inauguration, they will get as close to the festivities as they can, Janvier said.
"I'm going to see a historic event. I'm going to see the first black president," said Shakelia LeBlanc, a UF business junior. "No matter how far away we're sitting or standing, I want to be there."
The journey to Washington, D.C., started at about 4 a.m. on Monday when the last of the 57 passengers climbed onto the bus, past a sign on the door welcoming the student "History Makers."
After about 12 hours on the bus and two shopping stops, BSU members arrived at their hotel in Fredericksburg, Va.
The students will spend all of today in the Capitol. Before returning to Gainesville on Wednesday, they will tour the African American Cultural Center in Raleigh, N.C.
The travelers each paid $100 for the trip, and the Student Senate's allocation committee subsidized about $4,800 to cover the bus ride and two-night hotel stay.
According to Janvier, the trip was open to all students, though the first day of ticket sales was limited to people who had attended four or more BSU events.
Only a few non-BSU members are on the trip, she said.
Students on the trip said they are hopeful for the impact of Obama's inauguration.
UF sophomore Le'Asia Lundy hopes more jobs will become available and the economy will improve.
But BSU president and finance senior Courtney Stephenson looked at the bigger picture.
"America isn't 100 percent where it needs to be, but this is a stepping stone on the path where we need to be," Stephenson said. "Now I can look at my grandchildren and say that if you want to be the president of the United States, it's definitely possible."