The participants in McNick’s Close Up Washington D.C. trip flew out of Cincinnati on the morning of March 12 and returned March 17. The group consisted of juniors Trey Ackel, Isabella Daley, Lexi Gauger, Veronica Menendez, and Nick Rosenbaum, and library assistant Jane Ray. The trip is through the Close Up foundation, an organization whose “high school programs are designed to give students and educators an inside look at their democracy in action,” according to their website. In addition, the Close Up trip combined students from schools in eleven different states, introducing them to different cultures from around the country. In D.C., the students visited a number of monuments, memorials, museums, and government buildings, as well as participated in hands-on workshops and debates.
McNick has participated in Close Up Washington D.C. trip for over fifteen years. The trips started through The Fischer Scholar Program at McNicholas, established by a financial gift from the estate of Robert C. Fischer, Class of 1955. In order for students to attend, they must first be enrolled in McNick’s AP Government class. Interested students then write an essay to apply and the highest scoring students are invited on the trip. While as many as ten students have been able to attend in the past, the normal cap is around six.
Social Studies Department Chair Patrick Stricker is responsible for organizing the Close Up trip. His hope each year for the students participating is to “become more civically engaged and active,” he said. “One goal of Close Up is to get participants out of their comfort zone…and realize that teenagers from different parts of the country have it different than they do here,” he added. To help foster this uniting of students from across the country, the Close Up foundation paired schools from eleven different states for the trip, mingling the students in different workshop groups and as roommates.
Daley looked forward to seeing what she’s learned about in class happening in action during the trip. “I have always loved history without fully understanding how the current government works. I thought this trip would be a nice way for me to connect what I know to what is happening in my own lifetime,” she said. Her favorite activity was a mock Congress meeting, in which the students took roles as Representatives to meet in committees, amend bills, and vote on legislation. “It was just really cool to actually see how Congress really works,” she said.
“My favorite part of the trip was collaborating with and debating with people from around the country who all held unique viewpoints and had different experiences than we would encounter here,” Gauger said. Gauger roomed with two other girls from Texas, and she noted how they would casually talk about the rodeo as she would talk about a movie theater.
Rosenbaum’s favorite part of the trip was the day they met with Senator Rob Portman and aides for Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Brad Wenstrup. “Their answers gave tremendous insight into their views on issues that will affect us for the rest of lives,” Rosenbaum said. He also enjoyed the cultural diversity on the trip and said that he learned “that issues that are at the front and center of our attention here in Ohio might be ‘back burner’ issues for someone in Nebraska, and the opposite is true as well. It really puts into perspective not only the size of our nation, but the vastness of the political issue range for people in different areas of the country.”
While Stricker is typically the faculty member to attend the Close Up trip, he was unable to this year. As a result, assistant librarian Jane Ray stepped in instead. Once in D.C., Ray didn’t actually attend most of the workshops and sightseeing that the students did, but was able to attend her own learning experiences with Close Up chaperones from the other schools. Despite the trip’s experience not necessarily furthering her own position, Ray said she enjoyed being able to see D.C. in more detail than she had before. She loved admiring the city with a knowledgeable tour guide that could explain each symbolic detail of the city rather than just walking around on her own. In addition, Ray was interested in being around people of different cultures and backgrounds, especially the adults. She mentioned noting numerous differences between herself and chaperones from a tiny Alaskan town, including that they hadn’t seen a crosswalk before, but they were accustomed to keeping knives and rifles on their person to fight off bears in the Spring.
Gauger came away from the trip with a new appreciation for her role as a United States citizen. “The coolest thing I got to do was explore the Senate and House office buildings,” she said. “What blew my mind was that you can just walk into almost any office and almost any committee room. It made me understand what is meant by a government ‘of the people.’ We have a role to play and we should fulfill it.”
“I definitely recommend going on this trip,” Rosenbaum said. “Even if politics isn’t your thing, I still would recommend going because you meet so many awesome people from everywhere,” he said.