Students visit White House over Christmas

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Seven-year-old Sofia Vazquez’s favorite part of her trip to Washington, D.C., last month was getting to tour the White House at Christmas.

“Getting to go inside the White House was so awesome,” said Vazquez, a Neshoba Central Elementary second grader. “The Christmas Trees were cool to see too, and I loved the airports and getting to fly on a plane.”

A members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, she wore her traditional dress to the White House along with her friend, seven-year-old  Malaya Tullos, a second grader at Philadelphia Elementary and a Tribal member.

They were accompanied to the White House on Dec. 21 by Tanya Tullos, Malaya’s grandmother, and Fallon Vazquez, Sofia’s mother.

Malaya Tullos’ favorite part of the tour were the Christmas Trees in President’s Park. 

“I also loved how they had a big train in one room,” she said of the White House tour.

Mother Fallon Vazquez said the most memorable part of the tour was seeing Arlington National Cemetery, saying it was one of those somber experiences that every American should have.

“It was such a nice trip. I’ve been to D.C. before, but getting to go again with my daughter was a really neat experience. I hope my whole family can go one day,” Vazquez said. 

Tanya Tullos reached out to Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith requesting tickets and once they all passed a security check they were notified of their tour date. 

Tullos worked with the U.S. Department of Education and used to live in Washington. Now, she works with Choctaw Tribal Schools at Tucker Elementary. 

“We were very lucky to be selected for this tour, since you not only need security clearance to get into the White House, but tickets were also limited due to COVID,” Tullos said. 

She recalled the girls being in awe as they toured the White House, observed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier along with the rest of Arlington National Cemetery. 

The girls were amazed at how many men and women died serving the country, and the tour of the cemetery left them with a much greater understanding of what sacrifices others have made for citizens to enjoy the rights and freedom they have today, they said.

The girls got to see the National Christmas Tree surrounded by 56 different state and territorial trees. Each tree was decorated with ornaments that students created showing off their state’s history and culture. 

“I was in awe of all the different Christmas Trees they had. It was so beautiful,” Tanya Tullos said. “Being inside the White House was such an awesome experience. It’s definitely not something you can normally do.”   


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