Even though they were hundreds of miles away from New Orleans, the DHS group still dressed up in their striped shirts and beads! On Mardi Gras Day, the students visited the Iwa Jima Memorial, where they saluted to the soldiers who fought for the U.S. at Iwa Jima, Japan, in World War II.
Harsh winds, cold weather, and miles of walking could not stop the DHS girls from exploring the U.S.’s capital city on the Close Up program. From Feb. 26 to Mar. 3, twenty-six seniors travelled to Washington, D.C., to experience the U.S. government firsthand by visiting various monuments, memorials and government buildings.
Dominican participants, along with over 120 other students, visited different sites and learned about the issues they represent. One of the most popular sites visited was the Lincoln Memorial, where students discussed its symbolism and relevance in modern times.
When presented with thought-provoking questions, students used the site to understand the viewpoints of the people who built it in his honor and compare them to modern perspectives of people who think otherwise.
“Learning in the city was advantageous, and seeing Lincoln was definitely my favorite,” said senior Monet Brignac. “You read and see pictures of these monuments all the time in school, but to actually be up close and personal with them is mind-blowing and life-changing.”
Every year, DHS seniors attend Close Up. The Close Up Foundation is a national, educational program that lets middle school and high school students witness their government in action. Using the capital city as a classroom, students get a “close up” view of the people, processes and places that make up the nation’s government. The program runs year-round and invites students from all states and U.S. territories to participate.
Dressed in purple, green and yellow, the DHS group celebrated Mardi Gras at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. There, they toured the site and saw which states, territories and countries were allied with the U.S. Seniors Lauren Nguyen, Monet Brignac, Shelby Majeau, Maria Walter, Elizabeth Evans, Gabriella DeMatteo and Grace Nguyen explored the east side of the memorial, and celebrated the holiday near the column dedicated to Louisiana.
“Close Up is an opportunity for students of all ages and backgrounds to see the workings of Washington, D.C., and to truly understand what ‘We the people’ means,” said Close Up Coordinator Mr. Randy Duplantis. “This government is here for its citizens, and for the seniors to see the happenings up front and make connections with their civics classes is awe-inspiring.”
Throughout their week in Washington, students developed their ideas of what it means to be an informed citizen. While participating in fun and challenging activities, they learned how to formulate their own ideas and consider those of other people.
An engaging activity was the Mock Congress, when all participants acted out the happenings of bills currently debated in Congress. They divided into “committees” and listened to “lobbyists” argue for and against bills on raising minimum wage, adding body cameras to policemen’s uniforms, increasing border security, and other topical issues. After listening to the “lobbyists,” students reconvened into one group, and a Close Up moderator, who acted as the Speaker of the House, chose a bill to vote on.
Each evening, students gathered into workshops to discuss and debate their thoughts on issues introduced during the day. They made lists of the pros and cons of topics such as immigration, youth voting and minimum wage. Then, they found common ground on those topics, whether conservative, liberal or somewhere in between.
“I grew up in a fairly conservative household, so hearing the liberal stance from other students was very interesting,” said senior Grace Nguyen. “They showed me different sides to controversial issues, and hearing those standpoints helped me realize why states have representatives to voice all these different opinions.”
After strolling passed D.C.’s beautiful cherry blossom trees, the DHS group stopped by the White House to see if the president was home. Seniors Julianne Collins, Emily Orgeron, Hope Quigley, Shelby Majeu, Sarah Wolff and Emma Hurley stood by the entrance gate in awe of the building they usually see in their school textbooks.
As they spent more time together throughout the trip, the students bonded with other participants from different places across the country. When the day’s activities were over, nightly socials helped students relax and have fun with their new friends.
“After attending Close-Up, my political perspectives have changed,” said senior Gabby DeMatteo. “By the end of the trip my political knowledge increased dramatically. I now feel like I can talk about politics in a much more mature way.”
– Lauren Nguyen