SYF Students are Ready for Their Close Up!
Simon Youth Foundation is committed to supporting not only high school graduates, but contributing members of society who will positively impact their communities for years to come. By exposing our students to educational and professional development opportunities both in and outside the classroom, we aim to broaden their horizons and impact their worldview. In 2015, we launched the Simon Youth Academies- Civic Leadership Program (CLP) to present opportunities for students to understand their role in society, an
d better learn how to effect change.
One program offered through CLP is Close Up, a non-profit, non-partisan foundation that serves to “inform, inspire and empower young people to understand and embrace the rights and responsibilities of active citizenship.” Close Up’s primary purpose is to complement what the students have learned in a classroom with experiential learning to help the kids understand their government on a deeper, comprehensive level. Since its beginning in 1971, the Close Up Foundation has given over 800,000 students and educators an in-depth look at government and politics.
Participating students spend a week in Washington, DC, experiencing visits to multiple museums and monuments; workshops; lectures; debates; and even a meeting with congressional representatives, all of which are guided by trained professionals who are experts in their fields. Students are encouraged to learn how to form their own, reasoned opinions about government happenings, effectively communicate their viewpoints to others, and have civil discussions with others who might have differing opinions. As the trip draws to an end, students work together to formulate constructive ideas for a community project, and are encouraged to bring those ideas to life when they return home.
Each Simon Youth Academy can apply to be a part of the program; however, only about 25 spots are available for students. The chosen academies will then select four student leaders to attend with one chaperone that will get to participate in the teacher portion of the program. Students interested in the program must be in good academic and behavioral standing with his or her Academy. Academies establish their own criteria for selecting students to participate. Many utilize an application process that may include essays, interviews, leadership skills, and community service.
“A lot of our students come to us feeling disengaged not just from the high school experience, but from their communities as well. Close Up helps teach our students the importance of civic engagement, and empowers them to go home and make a difference in their community,” said SYF Programs Coordinator Kimb Stewart.
In June 2016, 23 students from five Simon Youth Academies participated in Close Up. Academies selected to participate were Simon Youth Academy at Coast High School, Huntington Beach, California; Simon Youth Academy at Outlet Marketplace, Orlando, Florida; Simon Youth Career Quest Academy at Port Charlotte Town Center, Port Charlotte, Florida; Simon Youth Academy at Edinburgh Premium Outlets, Edinburgh, Indiana; and Simon Youth Academy at Circle Centre, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Close Up’s motto is, “What happens here can change your world!” and for many of our students we can see the change starting to take place during the week. One of our Indianapolis students experienced many firsts during her trip to Washington, D.C., including her first trip on a plane. She also unexpectedly ran into a family friend while walking along the mall. Many aspects of the trip were eye opening to her, particularly visiting with a Senator and the Representative from her district. At the end of the week, though, she was so impressed by the staff and the learning experience; she expressed interest in becoming part of the Close Up team, as soon as she completes her college education. She wants to help other students have the same impactful, eye-opening experience she did.
Our students from Florida departed for the trip with heavy hearts. They left for Washington, D.C. while news reports were still coming in about the shooting at an Orlando nightclub during the early morning hours. While they were looking forward to their meeting with Senator Bill Nelson, they saw him in action instead. They watched as he and his colleagues debated restricting access to weapons like the ones used in the nightclub. Being on hand to see the debate was very impactful for them.
To learn more about Close Up, visit www.closeup.org.