15 Minutes Of Fame This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   On Thursday nights young children, high school students, working adults, and senior citizens all can come to local high schools and use the computers and an Internet connection. Sound like a good concept? First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton thought so.

The Community of Learners (COL) Network is an intranet of computers, students, teachers, and community members in the Brunswick, Bath, Topsham, Bowdoin, and Bowdoinham areas of Maine. The intranet allows all elementary, junior and senior high schools, as well as Bowdoin College and public libraries, to communicate with each other using computers and the World Wide Web. The focus is to use this technology in order for people from over a large area to learn and have fun together.

The focus of COL fit almost perfectly with focus of Hillary Clinton's recent book, It Takes a Village.

When Mrs. Clinton heard about COL, she made arrangements to visit Brunswick High School for a round-table discussion. She wanted to talk to a family who attended these meetings, to get a picture of COL from the point of view of family members.

My grandmother, mother and I have been going to these Thursday evening sessions for a long time. Throughout these sessions, I have been teaching my mother and grandmother how to use the World Wide Web. We are three generations of women sharing our knowledge and exploring a new world together.

When Mrs. Clinton requested to talk to a family, the staff immediately thought of mine. I could not believe it when they called to ask if we would participate in a discussion with Hillary Clinton. I received the news on Thursday, four days before she was to come. All weekend I was in a state of utter disbelief. By Monday morning I had managed to work my nerves into a tangled mess. What would I tell her? What would she ask me? Would I freeze in front of the three major television networks?

I sat in the library all morning and watched the press set up. Journalists asked me question upon question, and all I could do was wonder which newspaper each interview would be in.

Later we were asked to be seated at the table. I began to get excited; was this it? Was she finally here? No, the people from the Casco Cable Company wanted to focus their cameras. Mr. Moulton (a staff member), my mother, my grandmother and I sat under the lights for half an hour while Secret Service men with wires protruding from their shirts placed themselves strategically around the room. This, combined with the heat from the lights, made me sweat.

By 11:00 I wondered if she was really coming. No sooner had the thought come into my mind than a woman with a cellular phone came into the library and told everyone to get ready. Mrs. Clinton was coming up the driveway. The woman with the phone told us, "Just refer to the First Lady as Mrs. Clinton, and don't worry, you'll find her a very easy person to talk to." This is when it all began to seem real to me. There was no reason to be nervous anymore, the moment was here!

Someone said, "She's here!" and we all stood to greet the First Lady of the United States of America. As she came through the library doors, everyone shook hands with her. She stopped to chat with another student who was sitting at a computer terminal and then was directed to the table. She was smaller in person than she appears on TV. We all shook hands, introduced ourselves, and then were seated. Everyone was quiet and all cameras were on us. I began to wish that I was on the other side of the room with the press, watching, instead of being watched.

Mr. Moulton began by explaining the concept of the Community of Learners Network, and then handing it off to me. I didn't exactly know what to say, so Mrs. Clinton asked me how the computers helped me in school. I proceeded to explain. I didn't know how I sounded. Was I answering her question? She seemed satisfied. My grandmother took the floor. She had brought a portfolio of papers that she had gotten from the Internet. It was genealogy research she had done that linked our family to Abraham Lincoln. (My grandmother's maiden name was Lincoln.) Mrs. Clinton seemed very interested, and talked like we were old friends sitting around a coffee table. This lightened the atmosphere and I felt better.

The genealogy discussion took up the remainder of the time (about fifteen minutes). One of Mrs. Clinton's aides reminded her that she had a speech to give. As we stood to say good-bye, my grandmother proceeded to give Mrs. Clinton a hug and presented her with one of her handmade teddy bears. I tried not to look too embarrassed, but I couldn't help a little laugh.

We followed Mrs. Clinton to the back of our school to listen to her speech. Standing outside I began to feel again as if all of it wasn't real. And then I felt disappointed that it was all over.

That night the local cable channel broadcast the whole event. People we hadn't heard from in years called to see if it was actually us on TV with the First Lady. After a few days of seeing ourselves on the nightly news, it became tiresome. Three days later, flipping through the channels, my mom saw us on C-SPAN. We had scores of people telling us about newspapers with our names and pictures in.

Inevitably our fifteen minutes of fame came to an end, as interest died down and people got tired of hearing about it. However, it is a fifteen minutes that has changed my outlook on who I am forever. I was someone the First Lady of the United States wanted to talk to, and someone who was now not just another kid's face to the members of my community, the Community of Learners. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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