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CPCS seniors reflect on weeklong Washington D.C. trip

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COLTON - In the span of six days, 11 Colton-Pierrepont Central School seniors and two faculty members met with Congressman William L. “Bill” Owens, stopped by the U.S. Capitol and experienced first hand the ins and outs of the country’s government.

For over 30 years, CPCS seniors have had the opportunity to go on a Washington D.C. trip, coordinated through the Close Up Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1971.

This year’s trip began March 2 as the students, social studies teacher Craig Bogart, and Superintendent Joseph A. Kardash took a school bus to Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport and made their way south. The group returned Friday, but on Monday afternoon the buzz was still alive as they reflected on all of the previous week’s excitement.

“I liked how we not only got to dive into our government and I’ve learned so much more from actually seeing it because I didn’t have the best understanding of exactly how it worked. We also got to go and participate in a mock congress and we learned exactly how we do things and how our government works,” Brooke Collins said.

“I was kind of expecting the academic side of (the trip) and that was great and rigorous but the social aspect was really strong. It was a lot more involved than what I was expecting. It was great to meet all of these different people from other parts of the country and experience seeing all of these different people with different views that you don’t get from this tiny little area,” Andrew Jenkins said.

“It’s great exposure in general and also just the idea of living with roommates and just getting exposed to all of these people - it’s a great intro to what going to a college is going to be like too.”

Bruce Avery noted the mock congress was one of the his highlights fof the trip. During this event, CPCS students met with hundreds of students from other schools around the country to have a makeshift debate on bills and other government issues.

“I thought that was really interesting to mimic how our congress works, and we actually had a few bills passed. The fun part really was debating with these students from other schools on which issues should go through and which should be stopped,” Mr. Avery said.

Scott Boyce and Mr. Bogart noted the importance of expanding the student’s comfort zone in traveling from a small, tight-knit area like Colton to the nation’s capital.

“The biggest thing I noticed was probably the most obvious - there are a lot more people. One of the things that was most interesting to me was the metro. I had never been on metro so that was an interesting experience,” Mr. Boyce said. “The city is not as bad as some people in small towns make it out to be. We actually struck up a couple of conversations with some complete strangers.”

“Often times students have this misconception about how people in cities are different from people in rural areas. I think the students were able to see that cities are actually pretty cool and there’s a lot of entertainment options, there’s a lot of restaurants, a lot of different people there. They get that cultural aspect they might not get in their small town and some of them might even now want to live in a city someday or maybe go to college in a large urban area,” Mr. Bogart said.

Mr. Kardash echoed these sentiments.

“Having a small school can be a huge advantage in keeping kids from slipping through the cracks, but one of the disadvantages is exposure to diversity in culture. This (trip) is one of the ways in which we try to overcome that hurdle in our small school. That’s why it’s so important to our curriculum,” Mr. Kardash said.

Even before the Washington D.C. experience began, the group was treated to some surprise encounters with some big names. At the airport, they ran into U.S. Paralympic curler Jimmy Joseph on his way to Sochi for his competition. Additionally, two of the students spotted NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in the terminal and got a photo with him.

“There were a lot of individual experiences like that and I think (the students) were surprised that (the trip) just kept getting better,” Mr. Bogart said.

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