Grant Sends Military Teens to Washington
As Americans were preparing last week to celebrate America’s 236th birthday, hundreds of teenagers from military families were treated to three days of fun and learning here in the nation’s capital.
About 600 teenagers who participate in Boys & Girls Clubs of America in or around military installations flew in with about a hundred of their mentors for “Operation Washington,” a first-time event co-sponsored by BGCA and the Close Up Foundation as part of a partnership grant from the Departments of Defense and Justice, said Kevin McCartney, BGCA’s vice president of government relations.
The program allowed the teens to see in person those symbols of democracy for which their parents fight, and for which they, too, have sacrificed through frequent moves and dealing with deployed parents.
These were no ordinary tours of the Capitol and Washington’s other monuments. Under Close Up’s civics curriculum, the teens’ visit to the World War II, Korean and Vietnam War memorials included a discussion about the role and responsibilities of citizens during wartime. Their tour of the Capitol included meeting with their congressional representatives, and a trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial came with a discussion of civil rights and citizens’ roles in shaping public policy.
Through it all, the teens took part in group discussions about the appropriate size and role of government in a democracy, states versus the federal government, and an in-depth simulation of the legislative process. The teens also met with Attorney Gen. Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as senior Defense Department and White House officials, McCartney said.
“Close Up is really a hands-on experience here in Washington, D.C. It’s a very organized curriculum,” he said. “Everything has education and civics attached to it.”
The participants also were charged with developing a plan to address important issues in their own communities. Judging by their reaction to being in Washington, it sounds like they will do just that.
“These kids were outstanding, and they truly were grateful for this,” McCartney said.