In February, five Dominican seniors left New Orleans behind as they headed to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Close Up program.
Seniors Tessa Paul, Celeste Patron, Jennifer Yrle, Sara Miller and Alexandra LaNasa saw monuments, museums and memorials during their time in D.C. “It was interesting to see that our government really hasn’t changed that much over all of these years,” said Paul.
Through Close Up, high school seniors from all across the United States see first-hand how the government works. Since 1971, nearly 100,000 students have participated in this initiative. By bringing students from across the country together, Close Up shows attendees how to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to the real world
“This trip allows students who already have a grasp on Civics to better understand our government’s public policies and how those policies affect people differently,” said Mr. Randy Duplantis, history teacher and trip coordinator.
On the trip, students participated in seminars and workshops. The experience taught LaNasa and Yrle to be more open-minded and to listen to what others have to say. “This trip was definitely an eye-opener for me; hearing all sides of issues shifted some of my opinions for the better,” said Yrle.
One of the activities Close Up participants attended was a mock Congress. The students debated each side of an issue and judges picked lobbyists to present their side to the other the group. Other workshops dealt with topics such as the environment, criminal justice, immigration, and more.
In addition to attending seminars and workshops, the students explored government buildings: in particular, the Supreme Court building and the Capitol. They also sat in the Old Senate Chamber, where senators vote.
On one of their tours through a government building, the girls spoke with two members of Louisiana State Representative Cedric Richmond’s team and talked with a representative of Louisiana Senator John Kennedy. They also heard from Louisiana’s other senator, Dr. Bill Cassidy.
While Senator Cassidy was addressing Louisiana students, he told them that one day, one of them could be in his shoes. Hearing this excited Miller. “It made me realize that every little experience we have is integral in shaping who we will become and how we will impact the world,” she said.
Ms. Anne Comisky, trip moderator, agrees with Miller. “Meeting with the legislative staff members gave the girls a chance to ask questions concerning issues that are important to them,” she said.
Being on this trip as a chaperone brought back great memories for Dominican’s Recruitment Director Ms. Elyse Harrison (’13) who attended Close Up during her senior year. This trip was different for her because, as a chaperone, she saw more than just the “must see” places in D.C. “On the day we were all together, we got to ride on the special train under Capitol Hill that’s usually for Congress members only,” said Ms. Harrison.
Because Close Up is open to the entire country, some of the DHS girls’ roommates were from other states, such as Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan. “It was really cool being with people from other states because everyone has different opinions, and I learned a lot,” said Miller.
All of the girls agree that one of the best parts of the trip were their bus rides through the country’s capital city. “The bus rides allowed us to bond with other people on the trip and learn at the same time,” said Paul. On the rides, students talked about the places they had just visited and their opinions on government matters. The girls loved talking with their new friends and sharing their thoughts with the group.
“If you are questioning on whether or not to go on Close Up,” said LaNasa, “definitely go and bring comfy walking shoes!”
- Morgan Muscarello