Six Midlothian High School students spent last week in Washington, D.C., as part of the Close Up Foundation program. Stephen Toon, MHS government teacher, served as a sponsor to accompany the students on the annual educational field trip.
“The purpose is to see Washington, D.C., close up,” Toon said, noting that he had made the trip through the same program as a high school student in 1983.
The highlight of the trip was a visit to Congressman Joe Barton’s office for a 30-minute face-to-face discussion with the lawmaker, who told students, “In my early 30s, I was selected to be a White House Fellow and serve under President Reagan. He was a real believer in lower deficits, balanced budgets, strong national defense and strong family values. Working in his administration and living in this city was a real inspiration and I said to myself – maybe I could do some good for the country. Now 26 years later, I still strive every day to do something good for this country.”
He told the students he went to Texas A&M and expressed to them how important it is to get a good education.
“I was impressed by the thoughtful and in-depth questions asked by the students. These teenagers are the future leaders of our country – who knows one day one of them could be representing Midlothian in Congress – so it is good to see them so engaged in the political process,” Barton said of their visit. “It was obvious they cared deeply about the things affecting their community and I was happy to spend some time with them and share my views.”
Toon said the students have been planning their trip for the past year and they did all their fundraising and talked with their other teachers ahead of time to arrange to make up for the work they missed.
The program is open to any junior or senior students and this is the fourth year that MHS students have made the trip. Toon said about 200 students from around the country made the trip, but “it wasn’t just a bunch of teachers walking around with the kids.” The Close Up Foundation has an extensive staff and security to run the program, lead classes and discussion groups. More than 650,000 students have gone through the program, he said.
The students visited the memorials, Capitol Hill, Library of Congress and more. They also had a chance to talk with U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison’s staff members.
“The biggest challenge was to do everything we wanted to do – you can’t do it all in one week,” Toon said. “This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity (for the students).”
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