2005-05-20 / People

Island Students Visit Nation’s Capital

Project Close Up Trip Includes Kids From Three Schools
By Ellen Paquin

The entire junior class at Mackinaw City High School traveled to Washington, D.C., for Project Close Up in April, including (front row) Nathan Bennett (seated), Dan Sefton (kneeling), Callan Martin (standing); (second row, from left) Kristen Darrow, Betsie Frye, Erin Sullivan; (third row) Brian Cole, Matt Alexander, Robert Passino, Whitney Newsome, Blaine Paquet; (back) Eric Teysen, Jeremy Hingston, Dane Curth, and Ben Marshall.
The entire junior class at Mackinaw City High School traveled to Washington, D.C., for Project Close Up in April, including (front row) Nathan Bennett (seated), Dan Sefton (kneeling), Callan Martin (standing); (second row, from left) Kristen Darrow, Betsie Frye, Erin Sullivan; (third row) Brian Cole, Matt Alexander, Robert Passino, Whitney Newsome, Blaine Paquet; (back) Eric Teysen, Jeremy Hingston, Dane Curth, and Ben Marshall.

  • High school students from St. Ignace, Mackinac Island, and Mackinaw City traveled to Washington, D.C., in April to learn about the workings of American government.
  • The April 24 to April 30 field trip was organized as part of the national Project Close Up, which is offered in the capital throughout the year to schools across the country.

    The trip gave students an opportunity to see the Capitol Building, White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and memorials of the Vietnam War and World War II. Students visited embassies, met with lawmakers, and participated in role-playing exercises to learn about the processes of government. They shared lodging with students from Montana and Colorado.

    Social studies teacher Tom Hamel of LaSalle High School accompanied Nick Brown, Chelcee Tiernan, Mike Syrjala, and Lynnette Kanitz on the trip, offered during alternate years to LaSalle students.

    “It’s a good, intense five days,” Mr. Hamel said. “They actually get to see how government functions. Every student who has gone to Project Close Up has had a very positive experience.”

    Nick Brown, who participated this year, agreed, saying the Washington experience was “awesome.”

    “The things you learn there you’ll need for the rest of your life,” he said. “You learn to work with people you don’t know, which will be valuable at college. You get to see how many different people there are, and how they all have different opinions. Just because someone has a different opinion than you doesn’t mean they are wrong.”

    Students who chose to participate in Project Close Up volunteered for the project, Mr. Hamel said. Proceeds from a juice machine at the school are used to fund the trip every other year, while students pay the balance of needed funds out of pocket. Each trip costs $1,475 per student.

    Mackinac Island social studies teacher Jessica Clark traveled with Melissa Bunker, Emily St. Onge, and Christina McLean. In addition to visiting Washington memorials, they toured different neighborhoods of the city to learn about the city’s diversity, said Melissa Bunker.

    Marking the 24th year Mackinaw City school has participated in Project Close Up, history teacher Melissa Brody accompanied the entire junior class of the small school on the trip.

    This was the third year, she said, that the whole class has been able to go. Students visited a mosque and embassies and had an opportunity to appear on C-SPAN.

    “They could not believe how much they learned from the experience,” Ms. Brody said. “It’s knowledge they can use for the future.”

    Mackinaw City students who participated were Matt Alexander, Nathan Bennet, Dane Curth, Kristen Darrow, Betsie Frye, Jeremy Hingston, Callan Martin, Ben Marshall, Whitney Newsome, Blaine Paquet, Dan Sefton, Erin Sullivan, Eric Teysen, Brian Cole, and Robert Passino.

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