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D.C. Close-Up: A Monumental Trip

Students on DC Trip

  The rapid thumps of hearts beating with thrill, the rejuvenating scent of exhilaration in the air, the movement of gliding past people swiftly. This is not a group of kids whizzing through a ski run—this is a group of 26 PHS students receiving an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

  From Feb. 18 to Feb. 24, a group of PHS students embarked on a trip facilitated by Close Up to Washington, D.C., and led by history teacher Alli Cota. 

  During their time there, students had the opportunity to dive deeper into how the government functions, visited various memorials and monuments, participated in workshops and mock congress sessions, and even received an exclusive tour of the capitol, Cota said. 

  Though Cota arranged the trip, Close Up, a nonprofit organization, runs the six-day program. 

  “Close Up arranges a lot of wonderful opportunities,” Cota said. “For example, they bring in people who live and work in DC for a domestic issues debate – one liberal, one conservative – and they discuss real-world important social, political, and economic issues.”

  Close Up also organizes exclusive visits to government buildings for students.

  “[Close Up] arranges on-site visits to all sorts of places including embassies and the Pentagon. We spend a whole day on Capitol Hill and have meetings with staff from the offices of our representatives that are all set up in advance,” Cota said.

  The students enjoyed these planned trips and opportunities. 

  “[The highlight of the trip for me] was Capitol Hill day, when we got to go into Congress and talk to the staff of one of the representatives,” sophomore Isabella Lenders said.  

  Though this trip is focused on learning more about our government and politics, the social aspect of it is a huge part of the experience, senior Emma Nielsen said. Nielsen participated in the Close Up D.C. trip last year. 

  The program consists of students from high schools all over the country: Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Louisiana, and Missouri to name a few, Cota said. 

  “Our roommates were from Miami, so it was fascinating trying to see their perspective because a lot of people have different beliefs than we do here,” Nielsen said. “It’s really eye-opening to meet other people from [states all around] the country and learn about what they believe in.”

  Cota said this trip allows students to reflect and build upon their own ethics, values, and opinions on political, social, and economic issues.

  “I’m looking forward to being able to see actual people involved in policy and discuss [certain] issues because we don’t get a particularly diverse viewpoint in the Bay Area because it tends to lean so liberal,” junior Ella Hughes said. 

  While the majority of participants on this trip are juniors due to the content they learn in U.S. History courses, there are some sophomores and seniors who show interest and decide to sign up. 

  Senior Simran Titan said that she and her friend had wanted to attend the trip last year, but the timing didn’t work out, so they decided to go this year as seniors instead.

  “It’s fun to go on an independent trip and also get to know the city because I may be going to college around [D.C.],” Titan said.

  Cota said that following the conclusion of the Close Up program, the students stayed an additional day to have a “free day” in which they explored the city and visited different landmarks, such as the Smithsonian Mall and Georgetown. 

  This was the twenty-third D.C. trip that Cota arranged and chaperoned. 

  “I get excited about watching the little light bulbs go on [in students’ heads] when they [have] a new experience [such as] navigating public transportation [or living] with other students [which are both] are sort of a pre-college [thing],” Cota said. “It gives them a window to do things that they might not have experienced before.”

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Stephanie Lee
Stephanie Lee, Staff Writer
Stephanie Lee (10) is a Staff Writer for TPH. Outside of TPH she enjoys science (especially biology and chemistry). Outside of school she enjoys playing soccer, hiking, spending time at the beach, and hanging out with friends and family.
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