WHS Students Attend Close Up Trip in Washington, D.C. By jess Ferguson

Despite the temporary shutdown of the United States federal government, 22 Walpole High School (WHS) students attended a trip to Washington, D.C. under the program Close Up, an organization aimed towards helping “young people develop the skills and attitudes to become informed and engaged citizens.”

On Jan. 19, the federal government decided to launch a shutdown after Senate Republicans and Democrats came to inconclusive resolutions regarding a discussion about funding. As a result, all nonessential federal employees were placed on furlough—an unpaid leave of absence—until Monday, Jan. 22, when they came to a joint conclusion.

The students left on Jan. 21 and went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. At the end of the day, they attended dinner with Close Up students from Louisiana, California and Florida and attended a political workshop and debate.

"I have no idea how to describe my trip to D.C., but what I do know is that we went to a lot of really cool museums throughout the week. As an AP ceramics student, Mr. Kim has taught us all about contemporary art, and it was interesting to see a whole museum full of it," junior Jeff Lennon said. "There was one interactive exhibit where you would walk into a room full of papers all over the floor, and you could play with the paper and crumple it up. The meaning of the piece was something much deeper, but it was still fun to play with."

The real life costumes worn in Star Wars: The Last Jedi are at the Air and Space Museum. (Photo/ Jess Ferguson)
Juniors Jess Ferguson and Lily Ahmed at the paper exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Sheets of paper drop from the ceilings periodically and land on the floor, where visitors can sit in the piles. (Photo/ Erin Mouradian)
The Batmobile from the 1989 Tim Burton-directed film is pictured at the Museum of American History. (Photo/ Jess Ferguson)

On the second day, students visited the Jefferson, FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials and attended a seminar on finance in politics. Afterwards, they went to a political workshop regarding famous presidents and current issues in public policy.

"I liked the FDR memorial because all of the statues within it were very interesting, and I liked how they included statues representing the Great Depression, which was a huge part of FDR’s presidency," junior Lily Ahmed said.

A close up of the Jefferson Memorial, featuring a quote on the fourth panel, which was Jefferson's message to Samuel Kercheval in 1816. (Photo/ Jess Ferguson)
Juniors Jeff Lennon and Nina Sacco pose in front of the Jefferson Memorial. (Photo/ Jess Ferguson)
Students jumping in front of the Jefferson Memorial. (Photo/ Caroline Pitman)
A structure featured at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. This quote was in King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. in 1963. (Photo/ Jess Ferguson)

On the morning of the third day, students visited the Lincoln Memorial and WWII, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials. Later in the day, they traveled to the Embassy of Switzerland, Air Force Memorial and Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. Students experienced a mock Congress on several different national issues, including laws regarding concealing and carrying a gun, racial profiling and those who identify in the LGBT community.

"The Swiss Embassy was really cool just because learning about other people and their countries is really interesting to me," senior Rachel Bagley said. "The highlight was learning about the Swiss military and how they train despite the fact that they do not go to war."

Respectively: the Lincoln Memorial; the Vietnam War Memorial, where a wall with the complete list of those who died in combat is displayed; and the Korean War Memorial. (Photos/ Jess Ferguson)
Standing at 270 feet high, the three stainless steel spires on the Air Force Memorial represent flight and the spirit of the United States Air Force. (Photo/ Jess Ferguson)

On the following day, attendees went to Capitol Hill and met with various politicians such as Senator Ed Markey, a member of Representative Stephen Lynch’s staff and two members of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s staff. They also attended a play entitled "On Your Feet" about musician Gloria Estefan’s life.

"Capitol Hill day was by far the best day out of the week for me because I’ve always wanted to meet my state officials as well as watch the Senate in action. This day was the most important to me since it isn’t an everyday occurrence that you can watch our government officials vote on legislation and policies," junior Erin Mouradian said. "I think the best part was meeting Ed Markey and discussing the current issues affecting our own state, such as the potential oil drills off the coast and its effect on the beaches."

Students walked around at the Library of Congress before going to the Capitol Building. (Photo/ Jess Ferguson)
WHS students posing in front of Senator Bernie Sanders' office at the Capitol Building. Sanders was in Washington D.C. that day; however, students did not see him. (Photo/ Nicole Waters)
WHS Close Up students with Senator Ed Markey after meeting to discuss local issues in politics. (Photo/ Andrew Zack)
At night, students traveled to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to see a musical based on Gloria and Emilio Estefan, where they saw performances of "Conga" and "1-2-3". (Photo/ Jess Ferguson

On Thursday, students saw the outside of the White House and attended a democracy workshop, the National Portrait Gallery and the Arlington National Cemetery, where service members or prominent American figures such as Supreme Court justices can be buried. Notable Americans buried here include former presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft. To conclude the night, students went to a farewell dance with people from all four states who attended the trip.

"D.C. was a lot more fun than I expected," senior Libby Foley said. "It was a really great experience, and I made such close friends from different parts of the U.S. that leaving them on the last day was really tough."

Former President John F. Kennedy and wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' gravestones with General Lee's Mansion—the Arlington House—in the background at Arlington National Cemetary. The flame behind the two headstones is an eternal flame meant to last through wind, rain and extreme weather conditions. (Photo/ Jess Ferguson)
"D.C. was a lot more fun than I expected. It was a really great experience, and I made such close friends from different parts of the U.S. that leaving them on the last day was really tough." - senior Libby Foley
WHS students and students from Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, California come together for the farewell dance at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where they stayed throughout the week. (Photo/ Caroline Pitman)

Friday, Jan. 26 was the final day of the trip, and WHS students attended the Newseum, a museum that promotes American citizens’ First Amendment rights.

"Getting to visit the Newseum was a really great part of the trip because I got to experience it with many of my friends who write for The Rebellion with me," Editor-in-Chief Tara Gordon said. "As someone who wants to go into journalism for a career, it was eye-opening to learn how news and reporting has evolved, and I think overall the museum was extremely engaging."

Respectively: a graffitied portion of the Berlin Wall from West Berlin, a comic strip of Peanuts by Charles Schultz, and actual wreckage from 9/11 in front of different stories written on the tragedy. (Photos/ Jess Ferguson)

The trip to D.C. was run by WHS history teacher Samantha Rafferty and math teacher Sheryl Lerner. Rafferty plans to continue running the Close Up trip in 2019.

"Overall, I think the trip went well. The students I talked to were very enthusiastic about their experiences," Lerner said. "There were a lot of highlights for me, as it was my first time in D.C, but I really enjoyed our group meeting with Senator Markey. He was so energetic when talking about the issues that he is working on, and I think he related well to the students."

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