Students Take a Close Up Look at D.C.

Ella Doyle '19
February 28, 2019

Back row, l-r: Michael Stupka, Max Toman, Joe Nussbaum, Joe Nemo, Will Sperry, Joey Langevin, Luke Brower. Front row, l-r: Grace Bullard, Nina Pitera, Lili Silva, Olivia Tschida, Annie Cunningham, Taylor Lindeman, Elizabeth Everson, Ella Doyle, Sophia Schreier.

Close Up is a one trimester Social Studies class that has been offered to 11th and 12th graders for the past 40 years. Students learn how the federal government responds to national and international current events and the issues important to the American people, and how students can improve their political efficacy. The class culminates with a trip to Washington, D.C. This year's trip took place February 10-15. Ella Doyle '19 reflects on the experience.

What is political efficacy? According to American-Webster, it's "one's individual sense of how effective one's vote will be in influencing the political process." Political Efficacy varies greatly based on age, gender, and geography, but it's well known that the lowest voter turnout is among young people in America. It is vital that young adults in America learn about, examine, and increase their political efficacy if they expect to have a say in the American political process. This is the basis and the mission of Close-Up Washington DC, and the reason CDH proudly continues the tradition of sending students to Washington DC to participate in the program.

This year, sixteen juniors and seniors participated in Close-Up. In the classroom, we read the newspaper almost daily, examining and analyzing current events. We watched Senate Judiciary Hearings for Attorney General William Barr, monitored the midterm elections, and discussed international events, such as the annexation of the Kerch Strait. By the time our trip to Washington DC had begun, each student was confident in their knowledge of current events, governmental systems, and their own political efficacy.

Our week in Washington DC was packed to the brim. Mr. David Boisclair and Ms. Jennifer Androsky were swept off to their teacher workshops, and students began a week of examining American values and political efficacy. In workshops, students analyzed liberty, justice, and equality as the founding values of our country. We debated hot-button issues such as the opioid crisis, climate change, and firearm regulations in small groups, big debates, and a mock congress. We visited presidential memorials, war memorials, and listened to a Close Up-proctored political debate. We were given the opportunity to explore the surrounding neighborhoods of Washington DC, and to learn about the incredible people who lived there. We visited other countries through the embassies and spoke with diplomats from Belgium, Chile, Lithuania, and more. We saw Shear Madness, a theatrical tradition of Close Up, and attended a dance at the end of the week.

Out of the plethora of activities, tours, workshops, and speakers, the shining star of Close Up was Wednesday. CDH students and teachers explored Capital Hill together. We met with Senator Tina Smith, asking questions about Native American leadership and representation over her weekly "Coffee with Tina." We met with Representative Betty McCollum and had an important discussion about the boundary waters, wall funding, and the then-impending government shutdown. Her office gave us a tour of the capital, and we finished our day by speaking with the Director of Correspondence for Senator Amy Klobuchar. He was able to give us answers about Senator Klobuchar's stance on issues like the now-appointed Attorney General William Barr. Capital Hill day was about more than just shaking hands, though; it provided a clear look into the jobs of Minnesota legislators and an opportunity to ask questions of them as constituents.

Altogether, our short yet jam-packed week in Washington DC was a genuine and hands-on experience that allowed CDH students to examine their political efficacy and hopefully increase it. Of the CDH School Trips that aren't service-based, this is by far the most productive one, and it holds an enormous opportunity for students to visit places they've only ever seen in textbooks. Close Up has changed the lives of CDH students for years, and it will continue to in the future.


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