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Woodburn High School students get a 'Close Up' look at the workings of Washington D.C.

As an increased awareness of the need for strong, foundational civics education has evolved in recent years, a Woodburn High School program has proved to be proactive to that end.

Woodburn Academy of Art Science & Technology Principal Ricardo Marquez recently noted how one memorable mega-field trip has spurred many WHS students toward preparing to be active participants in democracy.

The students spent a week in Washington, D.C., through the Close Up Foundation, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that emphasizes how a strong democracy requires active and informed participation by all citizens. Close Up also seeks to serve young people from all communities and backgrounds. COURTESY PHOTO: WOODBURN SCHOOL DISTRICT  - Woodburn High School students learned lessons in Washington D.C. through Close Up Foundation programs.

Marquez said the high school partnered with Close Up to provide students with one of many types of programs -- experiential programs. Experiential learning programs through Close Up are customizable, multi-day programs where students spend days together.

Upon returning home, Woodburn students' thoughts bear that out.

Student reflections

"What I've learned from Close Up is how diverse we all are, but we can each bring different points from our lives that can better the U.S.," Academy of International Studies student Estrella Tapia said. "Also, always speak up no matter what. If we are different, we need to respect each other."

After going on the Washington, D.C., trip, Jasmine Lopez from WAAST said she realizes she has a voice in our democracy.

"I learned how our government works, all the people and voices that matter. It inspired me to get my act together because I one day will be making choices that will matter," Lopez said.

Marquez noted that WHS choose the Washington Program through Close Up because it brings students from urban and rural communities to the nation's capital so students can practice the skills of citizenship and experience government action.

AIS student Perla Barragan Chavez elaborated.

"Having to be in workshops and talk to other people who aren't our ethnicity wasn't as hard, since we all respected (everyone's) opinions," Barragan Chavez said. "What I heard most throughout Close Up was to speak up and let everyone hear you out, and it doesn't matter what others say or thinks about you.

"That really opened up my mind, because I'm usually a quiet person when meeting new people," Barragan Chavez added. "In the beginning, I wasn't comfortable talking at all. But then I got more confidence, and I ended up speaking my mind."

Fellow AIS student Stephanie Marcelino had similar reflections.

"Many memories come to mind, both in my own workshop and when we spent days together as a school," Marcelino said. "The trip itself was a great experience, full of knowledge."

It was also about bonding, AIS student Yolanda Perez stressed.

"Creating bonds -- within and outside of the school, as well as sharing our experiences with one another," Perez enthused. "Learning from the nation's capital has been surreal but I feel so inspired to keep learning."

Marquez said the experience was akin to providing students inside access to Washington, D.C. Close Up uses the city as a classroom and as an opportunity to teach students about history and government. Such an environment proved to be inspiring.

"We got to look at the museums and see all the displays. It really showed me there is so much more out there, and it also makes me want to study more on our history," WAAST student Anahi Solano said.

"A moment that inspired me was when we got to meet with our senator, Ron Wyden," AIS student Gerardo Aguirre reflected. "He is a very busy man, yet he still took the time to educate me as well as my peers about current issues. Sen. Wyden also highly encouraged us to someday form part of the government by holding some sort of public office: whether that is at the local, state, or at federal level.

"He finalized his speech by stating that he wanted to pass down the torch down to us. Truly an unbelievable and unforgettable experience," Aguirre added.

WAAST student Hernan Hernandez's best moment came when he heard a retired U.S. Army commander who gave him impactful advice.

Hernandez related that the retired commander said: "We can do whatever we want as long as we put our mind to it."

Marquez said students learned through lesson plans relevant to the current situation.

"The program educators taught our own Woodburn High School students how the government works and gave them the tools to become engaged citizens in our own Woodburn community," Marquez noted.

The principal said students continue to talk about the memories from the experience, the vividness of seeing Washington, D.C., and learning about their nation the heart at the core base of its government.

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