Students learn in nation’s Capitol

Nothing is better than seeing it in person.

That’s one thing students take away from their experience in Washington D.C. through Close Up program, said Hettinger Public School civics teacher Jon Kohler said.

Hettinger Close-Up students in Washington, D.C.

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor
cbenz@countrymedia.net

Having taken students to the nation’s Capitol for eight years, Kohler said this year of 15 seniors is one of his largest groups. The program allows senior government/civic students to take a trip to Washington, D.C. where they get to site see, and interact with students from all over the country.

“All these different states are there, and they get put in groups with all these different schools and states,” Kohler said.

Kohler also told the Record that just the experience of being in Washington has an impact on his students. But also the experience of sharing with students from around the country can have a lasting impact.

“I think just being in D.C., and seeing everything that you really only see in a book or on TV,” he said. “You know like the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam (Memorial), Korea (Memorial), the Smithsonian,” he said. “But it also does kind of open them up to other views, they kind of see what other people are thinking.”

Kohler added that among the groups students hold debates and discussions about current events and issues, and picking apart each other’s points of view.

He said it was interesting to hear about discussions on gun control. On one hand you have students from a rural setting who grew up with firearms. And on the other side of the table you had students from inner city Chicago.

“Two completely different view points,” Kohler said.

Though they were there during the session, their scheduled prevented them from going inside the chamber and witnessing their government in the works. But they were able to meet with each of North Dakota’s congressional delegation in Sen. John Hoeven, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, and Rep. Kevin Cramer.

Kohler said the trip is always fun, and the students leave with great experiences. But he’s also proud of their demeanor and candor in the Capitol.

“When we go up there, I’m proud of our kids…I love the fact that our kids go out there and they’re not afraid to speak their minds, they don’t let these people push them around,” he said. “They’ll give their opinions, we’ve got smart kids. They really make an impact out there.”