About halfway through her journey, Maria voiced her excitement at having a chance to see the historic moment in person.
"To see his own words live, and be able to witness that and be able to feel it...will be a whole different experience than just seeing it on television," she said.
Maria, 17, is a student at San Bernardino High School, where her academic performance has put her in the top 1 percent of the Cardinals' senior class.
"She is a very diligent young lady who has a lot going for her," Principal Sandra Rodriguez said in a statement. "She is a role model for other students not only at San Bernardino High School but across the San Bernardino City Unified School District."
Maria relayed her enthusiasm for the chance to see the inauguration festivities during a Friday stop in Memphis, Tenn.
There, she and 35 other Southern California students stopped on their cross-country trip, called "Fire Up the Bus."
For the students and their chaperones, Memphis was more than just a place to catch some rest.
Maria said the group was also scheduled to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, which is at the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
In addition to visiting the museum and inauguration, the students are also scheduled to tour the Capitol.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I don't think I'll ever get to do it again," she said.
Maria said she earned her place on the trip to Washington because of her grades. Her parents are members of the SEIU-ULTCW union for in-home health care workers.
The union donated $10,000 to sponsor the Fire Up the Bus trip, and Maria said her parents' affiliation made her eligible for the journey.
Other students were selected via an essay contest, according to the San Bernardino school district.
Maria said she plans to attend UC Riverside and study math with the ultimate goal of working as a teacher.
"I really like just being able to mentor other kids," she said.
Inauguration ceremonies for Obama's second term are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Pacific Time.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took the oaths of office for the second term on Sunday. The Constitution establishes Jan. 20 as the beginning of the president's term of office.
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