Strasburg Close Up students experience Washington, D.C.
Close Up, a national organization, coordinates trips throughout the United States and even abroad for students and their teachers who want to learn more about government. Once a group of students and teachers are at their destination, Close Up provides a unique understanding of that place’s government and culture.
“It is worth going and seeing all that D.C. has to offer,” Senior Kellie Tougas said. “If I wouldn’t have been in Close Up, I probably would have never gone to D.C.”
Students arrived at Reagan National Airport on Sunday evening, and from there, they went to Crystal City Shops, an underground shopping mall. On Sunday, they toured the Holocaust Museum. Many students felt it was a really moving experience and agreed it was one of the most engaging museums in the city.
“It was the most memorable because seeing what really happened made a big impact on me,” Senior Jennifer Wikenheiser said.
Students walked to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. This museum held many cool things such as old motor cars, china from past presidents and Dorothy’s red slippers from the Wizard of Oz.At the National Archives, they viewed the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There was also a copy of the Magna Carta on display given to the United States by the Queen during the bicentennial.
After a day of touring, students returned to their hotel and attended the orientation dinner. They were divided into groups. Each group was called a workshop and had its own workshop leader. The students would tour D.C. in these groups throughout most of the week.
On Monday, after a hot breakfast at the hotel, students visited several sites, including the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and Martin Luther King Memorial. After the morning tour of the memorials, students enjoyed lunch at National Place.
Following lunch, they walked to the White House where they proceeded to take many pictures of the President’s mansion. All agreed it was cool to see, even though the President wasn’t home at the time.
After supper at Union Station, the kids were bussed to the original Ford’s Theatre to witness the musical, “Hello Dolly.” Senior Kellie Tougas found that it was her favorite site in the city.
On Tuesday, students went to the World War II Memorial and agreed it was a beautiful tribute for the World War II veterans. They visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History where they were allowed to view exhibits that they had not seen earlier on their tour. After lunch, they visited the Capitol Hill grounds in preparation for the next day when they would visit their senators and representatives. After the Capitol tour, the groups toured neighborhoods of D.C. such as Georgetown, U-Street and Adams Morgan.
After dinner at the hotel, students participated in a mock Congress. They acted as committee members, lobbyists and legislators working on passing actual bills being considered by the House and Senate.
Wednesday was Capitol Hill Day as students reunited with their teachers and chaperones to meet their members of Congress. Students from each of their states met with their senators and representatives. After a group photo, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer visited with the students and chaperones, emphasizing the importance in government and why individuals should be involved in politics. The students also had a personal tour of the Capitol by members of Sen. John Hoeven’s staff.
Students had lunch with the representatives and their staff members at the House Cafeteria. After visiting Capitol Hill, they toured the Botanical Gardens.
For the evening, Close Up asked for viewpoints from a liberal and a conservative and met with them and debated questions posed by the students. Many students enjoyed this part of the week and were able to find where they stand on the issues in today’s world.
Thursday, the official last day of the program, allowed students to sign up for different electives.Amajority of the Strasburg students chose the Art of Politics elective where they toured the Smithsonian Museum of American History, National Gallery of Art, African-American Civil War Memorial and the historic U-Street of Washington D.C. In this elective, students discussed what kinds of roles art could play in politics and how people could use it to their advantage in promoting ideals.
Students traveled back to the hotel to attend their last workshop where they discussed how far they had advanced in their knowledge of current events and politics compared to how they were at the start of the program. When the final workshop was over, the students enjoyed a banquet provided by the hotel. Close Up also hosted a dance for all the participants.
“The Museum of Natural History was one of my favorite sites,” Senior Madelyn Kramer said.
The last day, the students spent their time at Arlington National Cemetery.They were able to witness the Changing of the Guard and the Changing of the Wreath.All students thought it was very cool to see all the order and placement that goes into making that event happen.
“A memorable experience for me was meeting a bunch of new people and making friends,” Junior Brooke Scherr said.
The Strasburg Close Up group would like fellow students who are interested in attending Close Up trips to know they are going to have a ton of fun, learn a lot and they are going to want their walking shoes.
Students want to thank Mr. Grove for his leadership, the chaperones who joined them on their trip, parents and family who helped with the numerous fundraising efforts and the community for their financial support. The knowledge and experiences they gained from Close Up and their trip to D.C. were worth all the hard work.