Learning Politics, Advocacy, Democracy and Being Productive Citizen


Student attendees at Up Close 2015 (if you look closely, I’m the one in the front row wearing a panda hoodie and V.I. beanie hat.)


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Between April 25 and May 3, I had the honor of partaking in the high school Close Up program in Washington D.C.

The Close Up program is a session-based operation that began in 1971. The Close Up program brings students from around the United States and its territories and teaches them a curriculum that encompasses democracy, political efficacy, and American history.

The goal for each session is to instill students with the skills and knowledge they need to make positive changes in their communities, and the country as a whole.

Students are given the opportunity to visit national monuments and memorials, participate in workshops and discussions with a diverse group of students, and even meet their state representatives.

The session I attended contained students from Arizona, California, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Minnesota, Montana, and the Virgin Islands. I was the only attendee from St. John.

During the week students discussed various domestic issues with students from around the country.

These issues included same sex marriage, reproductive rights of women, the efficiency of standardized testing, youth obesity, gun control, ISIS, minimum wage, immigration, oil pipelines, and the voting rights of U.S. territories.

It was eye-opening to see these issues from the perspective of peers. Each student had a chance to apply their own experiences and opinions to debate solutions for these problems.

In between workshops, they visited national monuments and memorials to hear testimonies about American history. This ensured that they examined each domestic issue in a historical context.

They got to see the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the National Museum of the American Indian, Capitol Hill, the Washington Monument, The Library of Congress, Arlington Cemetery, the White House, and more.

For one day that week, all the students dressed in suits to meet their delegate to Congress and to tour Capitol Hill.

The group from the Virgin Islands went to US Department of Interior to visit the Office of Insular Affairs.

The Office of Insular Affairs empowers insular communities by improving their quality of life, creating economic opportunities, and promoting efficient and effective governance.

The meeting was headed by Secretary Esther Kia’aina who grew up in Hawaii.

During the visit, Virgin Island students learned about how funds are allocated to the US territories, how policies are enforced and more.

They had hoped to meet Delegate Stacey Plaskett afterwards, but she was on St. Thomas at the time.

The Close Up program was an invaluable experience for all who attended. It had a profound impact because attendees learned not only about their country, but themselves as well.

Their exposure to differing viewpoints will prepare them to take the necessary actions to improve their communities.

All in all, this program has the potential to mold the future lobbyists, politicians, lawyers, and presidents of the United States.

It primes students for productive adulthood by teaching them about the services and actions they can take today.

Actions such as boycotts, park clean ups, neighborhood watches, canvassing, fundraising, and letter writing are all possible for students to do. The possibilities are endless.

With the help of the Close Up program, students can learn to make their voices heard, and expand their knowledge of politics and advocacy. Expect changes within the power balance of citizens and the government, and do not doubt the willpower of students.