Close-Upkids learn from Washington experience

Published on Thu, Apr 8, 2004
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Close-Up kids learn from Washington experience

In their seven days in the nations capital five Blaine high school juniors saw government in action, and saw firsthand how they can have a role in how it runs.

“I think that’s one of the best things about the trip,” said teacher David Fakkema. “They see people using their first amendment rights to talk, to protest.” During the week the students were in Washington D.C. as part of the Close-Up program the Supreme Court was debating whether or not to take “under God” back out of the pledge of allegiance and the students mingled with protestors on both sides of the question and talked to them about why their beliefs took them to the streets. They also got to see the ever changing installation of a woman who has since 1981 protested on various issues in a park across from the White House and is rumored to have been allowed to chat with the first President Bush on his way to church through the park. “She might be a little off the deep end but she’s there, she’s sincere,” Fakkema said. “The kids can see that any person has the potential to make a difference if they’re involved.”

Students got to raise their own voices in meetings with Senator Maria Cantwell and Congressman Rick Larsen. Fakkema said the meeting with Larsen was especially lively, with Students questioning the congressman about border issues, and recent arrests related to smuggling marijuana on the Point Roberts school bus. “They asked what he thinks would help with the issue of our students getting pulled into that kind of thing by the lure of easy money,” he said

In addition to seminars and workshops on the workings of the republic, the trip put a real face on the democratic process, Fakkema said. The group spent one day on Capitol Hill where they got to see Senators that until then had only been figures on the news debating on the Senate floor, including Hilary Rodham Clinton, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and John McCain. Fakkema said the group was surprised to find that, in the formal atmosphere of the Senate, members still threw digs at each other. “They do it in metaphor, very subtly, but they get their shots in,” Fakkema said.

Now that they’re back, Close-Up organizers are putting together a series of fundraisers to defray the cost of the trip. Fakkema said they are gathering up donations for a garage sale and silent auction April 24.
They are also looking for more community members to participate in the annual Close-Up talent show May 1. With several musical acts signed up Fakkema said he would particularly like to see a comedian or a dramatic production. “I really want to have more community involvement,” he said. To get involved call Fakkema at the school, 332-6045.