Pennsylvania's Victoria Hrach discusses Y.E.S.'s travels in the nation's capital
Fairfax, Virginia - This is the second part of 2014 Youth Education Summit participant Victoria Hrach sharing her experience at the once-in-a-lifetime trip for high school students. In this excerpt, the Smithton, Pennsylvania, native talks about the summit's two days in Washington, D.C., visiting a number of museums and monuments to learn our country's history and the importance of a federal government. Read the first part of Victoria's story here.
The following day, we traveled to Hillsdale College in Washington, DC for our debates. Our group of students this year was split into four debates, each with a con and a pro side, for a total of eight teams. Even the teams that were assigned sides that were difficult to argue still did exceptionally well, and whether new or experienced in debating, each participant truly brought a unique speaking style and interesting points to their presentation. After our debates, we traveled upstairs and watched Marco Rubio speak, proposing ideas for immigration and education reform.
We then traveled to the National Archives and were able to see many of the documents that governed our country, dating back to the original Declaration of Independence! The Bill of Rights was also there, and I reread the Second Amendment quite a few times. It was amazing to see where our rights had been declared, where they were physically guaranteed to be protected for us.
After stopping outside the White House, our evening was full of our travels to different memorials, and everyone had their own favorite. Visiting each different monument was truly touching; seeing great American figures like Jefferson and Lincoln gave me a sense of pride for our country, and seeing the war memorials made me realize the brave sacrifices that so many Americans made to preserve our rights and our freedom. It was an emotional experience to walk deeper and deeper into the Vietnam Memorial as I ran my fingers along the names carved into the black stone.
On Thursday, we had the opportunity to tour the Capitol building. Inside, we saw historical relics, pictures, and even some neat dioramas of how the Capitol’s layout had changed over the years. The other participants and I watched a short documentary shown at the Capitol, explaining the history and significance of all that had occurred there over the years.
After our general tour, we went to visit the Supreme Court. Our tour guide explained the roles and backgrounds of the individuals involved in every aspect of the judicial process, and connected the relevance of the wall frieze artwork to the duties and values of the Supreme Court. We then went to the Smithsonian for a scavenger hunt, evaluated on the quality of our responses to the questions we were assigned. Team Daisy – my team – searched through the museum for the answers, writing down our responses as we went. Later on, it was announced that Daisy had won, and the chaperones kindly gave us Star-Spangled Banner glasses from the museum gift shop as prizes.
Back at the hotel, we remained in our assigned teams for discussions that the chaperones referred to as “seminars.” In our seminars, there were three different main topics, each with six subtopics, one assigned to each of the teams that we had. The seminars were different from the debates; we mainly shared our factual findings and individual feelings, rather than having to argue a certain side as in the debates from the previous day. It was interesting to see what everyone had found about their topics – as in the case of one boy, Brad, with his enormous “Binder of Infinite Knowledge” – and also to hear how everyone felt about controversial issues, such as the mandatory firearm ownership imposed in Switzerland.