AP Government students visit Washington D.C.

By Eric Erickson,
News commentary

Seniors now studying AP Government and AP Economics at Como Park Senior High School recently spent a week in Washington, D.C., as part of the national Close Up program.

After a couple years of missing the program due to Covid restrictions, 15 students now have had the chance of committing to the educational adventure. Buoyed by strong fundraising and financial support of people in the Como community, all willing and able students had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the civic culture of the nation’s capital.

Como student highlights included study visits to national monuments and memorials including Jefferson, FDR, Martin Luther King Jr., Lincoln, World War II, Vietnam and Korea. There were also study visits at museums of the Smithsonian, the Holocaust Museum, Black Lives Matter Plaza, the White House, Arlington National Cemetery and unique Washington neighborhoods with citizen action sites.

On March 1, Como students visited Capitol Hill where the first of many security checkpoints gave access to a House of Representatives Committee Meeting. Students observed an Energy and Commerce sub-committee hearing on data privacy and social media.

Students then sat down for a policy meeting with U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota, in her office. The hour-long discussion had a powerful impact on the students who answered their representative’s questions about education, public safety and the environment while also listening to McCollum describe the work of Congress and its current climate.

After a tour of the U.S. Capitol building itself, students had meetings on the Senate side of the hill with both Senator Tina Smith and Senator Amy Klobuchar. 

Capitol Hill Day also included visits to the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and sitting in the House of Representatives chamber where votes occur and State of the Union addresses are given.           

Throughout the week, Como students participated in policy discussions with peers from across the nation and beyond in workshop groups. Altogether, 90 students represented the states of California, New York, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan, as well as Puerto Rico and France.

I’m proud of Como students who advocated for themselves, worked to reach a goal, entered a new environment with an open mind, consistently used critical thinking and represented their school with a positive attitude and gratitude.

This week of experiential learning helps create informed and engaged citizens, equipped with skills to make a difference in their community and our world. 

Eric Erickson has taught AP Government at Como Park Senior High School for the past 23 years and has guided 16 groups on the Washington, D.C., Close Up program.

Photo Cutline: Como AP Government students with Senator Tina Smith after their meeting. Photo courtesy of Senator Tina Smith’s office.

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