Vail Valley teen is headed for history |

Vail Valley teen is headed for history

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyJillian Kiss, 15, sits at the piano that she is learning to play Tuesday at her home in West Vail, Colorado.

VAIL, Colorado ” Fifteen-year-old Jillian Kiss is going to watch President Barack Obama get sworn into office Jan. 20, but the Vail, Colorado student won’t be watching it on TV like the rest of us.

Kiss, a Battle Mountain High School sophomore, is going to the presidential inauguration in Washington with a select few. Jillian is part of People to People International, a program started by President Eisenhower to bring people together through exchanging ideas and experiences.

The organization arranges humanitarian and cultural trips all around the world every year, but the inauguration is something Jillian cannot believe she’s going to see in person.

“I’m super excited because I was an intense Obama fan (throughout the campaign),” Jillian said.

Jillian liked Obama from the start, she said. She’s passionate about the environment and thinks Obama was the best choice for the planet.

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The opportunity to attend the inauguration is like winning an award ” something Jillian’s no stranger to. She practically got a cardio workout at Battle Mountain’s freshman awards ceremony last year because she had to walk up to the stage so many times.

From student council to theater to the speech team, Jillian is involved at school both socially and academically. The People to People programs are the icing on the cake, though, she said.

“You meet so many different people,” she said. “It’s such a great learning experience and you get high school credit.”

She’s met a former senator and Eisenhower relatives before, but nothing compares to the inauguration invite. Her parents, Diana and Adam, found out that People to People had a spot for her at the event. They have to cover all of her expenses, which add up to quite a bit, but they just couldn’t let their daughter miss this chance, Diana said.

“We were thinking there’s no way we can afford it, and then when we found out who was elected we said, ‘OK, we’ll figure out a way to do it,'” Diana said. “It’s a once in a lifetime chance.”

Adam and Diana wanted to keep the trip a surprise. They first thought they’d announce it over Thanksgiving dinner, then they thought they should wait until Christmas, but they lasted all of one day before the news slipped out.

“The look on her face was priceless,” Diana said. “She was just so ecstatic.”

As part of her trip to Washington, Jillian also gets to go to the inauguration ball. Her parents took her down to Denver and bought her a gown as an early birthday present.

Kiss wants Vail Daily readers to have the inside scoop on the happenings from around Washington, too. She’ll be sending in daily photographs and blogs about what she sees and hears amid the Washington elite. The Vail Daily gave Jillian a small stipend to help her cover some of her expenses on the trip.

Jillian is also hoping to get some help from the Vail Valley Rotary Club. She’s already received a new camera as a gift from her aunt, and Diana bought her a small laptop for the trip as well.

“Everyone has been contributing to help her have the best trip,” Diana said. “It’s worth it for her. She’s so involved in wanting to change the world; this is right up her alley.”

Kiss wants to go to University of Colorado at Boulder to study environmental law. She’s thinking environmental law partly because she likes to argue so much, but mostly because she cherishes the environment.

“We only have this planet for so long and I want to try to extend that time as long as possible,” she said.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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