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Close Up Trip 2017

December 04, 2017
By Jenna Dutton

Well, this week has been a blast. I was hoping to write you an email half-way through the trip to update you on how it went. It feels like I haven't sat down since 2:30am last Saturday! I hope your kids tell you all about the trip and what we did, and I don't want to ruin their stories, but I wanted to give you some highlights.

On our arrival Saturday, I took them to a little-known spot in DC known as the Capitol Quarry. It was a hike (quite literally) getting there and Julia's feet are probably still hurting from it, but it was a pretty cool experience seeing the original stones of the Capitol building that were removed during a renovation. I've attached a picture below.

Sunday, we went to Grace Reformed Church in DC which is a URCNA church. The church itself is a historic landmark and is over 100 years old. Theodore Roosevelt attended there and actually laid the cornerstone during its construction and commemoration (We may have had an accidental run in with the Park Police- I'll let the students fill you in on that! It's a funny story)Sunday night our program started, and I handed your kids over to the program. Monday and Tuesday I saw very little with them as they were doing workshops and visiting landmarks, monuments, and memorials that taught/reinforced the topics discussed in their workshops about scope of government, relationship between rights and oversight, etc. Wednesday was our "Capitol Hill Day". We had a schedule to meet with the offices of Dick Durban (IL Senator), Tammy Duckworth (IL Senator), and Robin Kelly (IL Rep.). We were not able to meet with them personally (save 5 minutes with Tammy Duckworth which was pretty neat), but we did get to meet some of their staff members and even a Chief of Staff. We discussed what they did, how they got into that job, likes/dislikes, how they communicate with their constituents, etc. Each session was between 45 minutes to over an hour. Wednesday night, we drove down to Williamsburg and Thursday morning and afternoon were spent there. One of my favorite places. After that, we drove back to DC and the students were able to see "A Christmas Carol" in Ford's Theatre where Lincoln was assassinated. Today, we were on our own as a school and were able to explore DC on our own. I had scheduled another meeting with Pete Visclosky's office and his staffer, Sameer, gave us a tour of the Capitol Building. One of the best parts of the trip was actually prior to that when Pete Visclosky walked with us from the office building to the Capitol. We entered the House side through the VIP section where only staffers, Congressmen, or anyone with a really important badge is able to enter! Congressmen Visclosky spoke with our kids for 5 minutes or so before he went to the House floor to vote. We went to the public viewing area up top and watch people like Speaker Paul Ryan, John Lewis, and Nancy Pilosi walk the floors before they were called into session. We also went to the Senate side and just caught the tail-end of the Senate vote. We saw Bernie Sanders from 50 ft. That was pretty awesome. Tomorrow, we will go to the Frederick Douglass house, have lunch and depart for the airport at 3:00pm for our 5:45 flight. 

This email only scratches the surface of what your kids did on this trip. I hope they tell you more. I did want to share with you a little of what we did. I also wanted to let you know that your kids were so well behaved. I was very proud of the way they handled themselves and represented our school and our God. We even had a chance to celebrate Ashley's birthday on Thursday night. I also just enjoyed being with them and getting to know them better.

Darren De Boer

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12/4/17 - By Jenna Dutton