Longer ago than I want to admit, Peninsula High U.S. History and Civics teacher Tim Messersmith told me of a fascinatingly rewarding program for our high school kids called Close Up.
Thanks to overly busy schedules and a bit of calendar confusion, I botched not one but two tries to get together with students Messersmith plans to accompany to Washington, D.C. this spring in a repeat of a trip he made last year with PHS seniors Libby Everett and Morgan Blalock and juniors Dylan Ausboe and Emily Rayfield.
While there, it was cherry blossom time, which is always overwhelming. As icing on the cake, the students and Messersmith enjoyed face-to-face visits with Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, also overwhelming.
“Close Up really opened my eyes and my mind on what kind of impact I could have not only in our nation but in my community,” said senior Morgan Blalock. “I learned and experienced our history, politics and democracy through the many Close Up activities in and around our nation’s capital. I want to go again.”
Classmate Libby Everet said, “Seeing, learning and touching the many monuments and memorials really made me realize my role as a citizen in the United States.”
“I learned so much about how our democracy works,” noted junior Emily Rayfield. “It was exciting to be around hundreds of other high school students from around the nation and learn of their opinions and ideas. It gave me a greater perspective as a young adult.”
Close Up, which has been around since 1971, brings high school students to Washington, D.C. for a week of civic education while using the city as a living classroom. Students interact with several hundred other students from all over the nation while learning about the nation’s history, government and politics while visiting monuments, memorials and museums.
“For example, students will visit the Jefferson Memorial and discuss the role of government and its limits then and now as Jefferson envisioned,” said Messersmith, PHS’ advisor for Close Up. “They will see the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. monument and debate about the Civil Rights Movement and how it still affects the nation today. They have a Capitol Hill Day in which they get to meet their elected representatives, ask them questions about issues that affect them, and witness Congress in action. Not only do they learn about how our democracy works, they learn how to ‘do’ democracy.
“They will come back to PHS knowing how to make a difference in their communities as well as their nation.”
For this year’s trip, Messersmith hopes to share the experience with more students.
“It is really a great experience for them,” he said. “A student who went last year is going again this year.”
Messersmith hopes to gain exposure about the program to the community and earn its support.
“The program’s costs limit many from participating in this experience of a lifetime,” he said. “Interested citizens can contribute to help many of these students.”
For further info, please contact Tim Messersmith at 253-514-0052.
You’ll find it to be rewarding.
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.