Close-Up Trip

As we were driving to the Jefferson Memorial, I overheard a boy from an all-boys’ Catholic high school in Miami trying to teach the Texan student next to him some Spanish slang. The Close-Up Washington DC trip was not only about increasing our political efficacy as teenagers, it was also about making new friends and learning about different cultures.

A group of six students from CHS went on the Close-Up trip. The trip included a students from all around the nation, including people from Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and six students from Missouri.

We were the only students from St. Louis in our workshop. Although at first it seemed like the majority of the people in our workshop had similar perspectives on key political issues, we soon realized that our group was usually split down the middle on issues in politics.

What amazed me most about the Close-Up trip was how we would be visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on MLK day, or would be walking in the House Chamber on the same day as President Obama would be giving his State of the Union address.

Not only did we visit iconic monuments, but we also discussed and learned about current political issues that were important to us. Personally, I learned that even as a high school student, I can have a major impact on the policies and laws that affect my daily life.

One of the most important lessons that I took away from the trip was that as teenagers, we can be as politically efficacious as adults. During the trip, we attended many seminars held by famous organizations, including one by Free Press, an international organization working to strengthen democracy through their media reforms.

We also attended a musical, “Shear Madness,” at the Kennedy Center for the Arts, which was unforgettable. On Capitol Hill day, we visited the offices of our senators and representatives, where we had the opportunity to meet Senator Roy Blunt (whom we took a photo with), speak with Senator Claire McCaskill’s staff, and meet Representative Ann Wagner.

We asked Senator McCaskill’s staff many questions about current political issues and the typical day in the life of a Congressional staff member. After meeting with our Senators and Representative, we visited the National Archives, where we saw the original Constitution and Declaration of Independence. We headed home on Friday, feeling tired and stressed about the work that we missed, but ultimately filled with joy and a curiosity for political affairs.

Over the packed five day trip, we visited two Smithsonian Museums and the Vietnam, Korean, Jefferson, FDR and Lincoln Memorials.

Although the main purpose of the Close-Up trip was to increase our impact on politics, the most important thing that I took away from the trip were the friends I made from all different parts of the nation. Learning new Spanish slang from the boys from Miami, and that many of the students from Texas had to recite the Texan Anthem everyday made me open my eyes to how unique America, as a nation, truly is.