Students experience D.C., see inauguration ‘Close Up’

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According to AP U.S History teacher Kevin Hildebrand by the end of the trip students were exhausted because of the rigourous and early mornings but they had such a great time that they did not want the trip to end.

Sofia Guevara, staff writer

Students and teachers lined up to board an 8 o’clock flight to Washington D.C. on Jan. 17, an early Thursday morning, organized by Close Up, a non-profit organization. The 17 students and two teachers had been looking forward to this moment, yet none of them anticipated learning as much as they did in a week.

Close Up is a non-profit organization that sponsors and partners with educational programs all over the country to develop well informed young citizens.

AP U.S. History teacher, Kevin Hildebrand, and government teacher, Tony Marsh, were the school group leaders in charge of the students on the trip. It was open for juniors and seniors and students applied in advance.

“I was so excited to go on this trip since I signed up a year prior,” senior Brittney Haaland said. “I have always wanted to go to Washington D.C. and this was an opportunity I could not have passed up.”

Close Up’s main purpose is to promote the U.S. government through hands on experience and trips. Students who participated in the trip had a specific schedule of things to do and places to visit. Additionally, the students were able to attend President Obama’s inauguration for his second term in office.

“The purpose of the trip is to give students the opportunity to experience Washington D.C. as active participants rather than tourists,” Hildebrand said. “The students got to do things they would not get to do if they went on their own. They participated in mock debates, held a mock session of congress and learned about how government works.”

Student interaction with a diverse crowd of peers enabled them to experience different perspectives towards controversial issues such as immigration, gun control, and abortion.

“Most of what people know about our government is what they have seen on TV,” Hildebrand said. “The students who participated in Close Up get a very personal look at the inner workings of Washington and a newfound respect for our government.”

On Jan. 21, a historical day due to President Barack Obama’s inauguration coinciding with Martin Luther King Jr. day, the students were able to attend the inauguration.

“It proved to be a long day but well worth it,” Hildebrand said. “We woke up at 3:15 a.m. to make sure we had the best spot possible. The energy generated by almost a million people is difficult to describe. I thought there were some things that were unique about the inauguration. For instance, the 2013 inauguration of our nation’s first African-American President took place 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

Additionally, the group was able to witness the senator of Louisiana propose a bill about cleaning up hurricane Sandy and sat in on a  bipartisan debate. Students also had the opportunity to ask questions and hear opinions on controversial issues that are debated today.

According to students who went on the trip, it was not only an educational, but also a fun experience.

“All the students benefited from this trip on so many levels,” Haaland said. “We met students from all over the country, and learned more about our country’s history in the most exciting way possible.”

During the remaining time, students were able to visit the United States Holocaust Museum, Arlington National Cemetery and other national memorials.

“I think I was extremely lucky to have been able to go on this trip,” Haaland said. “Witnessing the monuments and a memorial first hand is something none of us will forget.”

The students returned Jan. 24 with many memories to share with their peers and teachers.

“It was such a memorable trip,” Hildebrand said. “It will be something that those students will look back on years from now and appreciate.”