Capital Becomes a ‘Presidential Classroom’

Capital Becomes a ‘Presidential Classroom’

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Presidential staff members in both the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations talked of making the capital city a “classroom” for young people from around the nation, but it was not until a group of businessmen acted in 1969 that “A Presidential Classroom for Young Americans” came into existence.

The nonprofit, tax-exempt Presidential Classroom organization now sponsors eight spring programs for 400 high-school juniors and two intensive summer sessions for teachers and college students, according to its executive director, Angie B. Whitaker.

Program Features: Students occupy one wing of a Washington hotel during their weeklong visit and travel to and from speeches and Capitol Hill by bus. They participate in seminars drawing upon readings in Power and Politics in the Federal Forum, the program’s assigned textbook. Students spend one night at the theater and on Friday night attend a dinner/dance and graduation ceremony, says Ms. Whitaker.

Instructors: The 20 Presidential Classroom instructors (two for each section of 45 students) are volunteers who are either on loan from government agencies or past participants who are members of the organization’s 3,000-member alumni association, according to Ms. Whitaker.

Teacher Programs: Presidential Classroom students come without teachers. “We want this to be their week,” says Ms. Whitaker about the students. “It’s far less inhibiting for students if they feel they are here totally on their own.”

Selection Procedure and Criteria for Acceptance: Students file applications, which the organization sends out to interested teachers, and attend the program on an individual basis. While there is no academic-grade criterion for the selection of Presidential Classroom participants, the majority “are active and very highly motivated,” says Ms. Whitaker. Ninety percent of those chosen are in the top 10 percent of their class. Many are members of the honor society, student council, and debate team. Program administrators try to attract students from all 50 states for each week’s program.

Tuition: Presidential Classroom students pay $375 plus transportation costs for their week in Washington.

Additional Activities: The organization also offers “Federal Forum,” two summer sessions for 60 to 100 teachers and college students that “parallel the experience of the [high-school] students,” according to Ms. Whitaker. Both weeks are designed to expand the political knowledge of participants and to stimulate teachers to use the new information in their classes, she says. The cost per participant is approximately $400, and academic credit is available for college students.

For more information: Write or call Angie B. Whitaker, executive director, A Presidential Classroom for Young Americans, P.O. Box 19084, Washington, D.C. 20036, (202) 638-2234.–A.B.

Two speakers at our session that I recall vividly were John Anderson and Sandra Day O’Connor. I remember “roaming” around the Capital buildings with our little badges and notebooks (flashed those and we could go anywhere … never ever would that happen now). I remember meeting with Warner .. he was our relatively new Senator then.The best part of PC was meeting other teens from all over the country .. and indeed it did ignite a lifelong interest in politics and activism.

Our senator was Hubert Humphrey, and I still treasure the photo take of all of us Minnesota kids and the Senator. He had a photographer come in special for that, which impressed all of us.

Yep, I recall roaming the halls of the Senate office building, and yes, my friend and I chased Ted Kennedy into an elevator! Yes, we chased HIM!! He was very gracious to two giggly nervous girls who had just made fools, so to speak, of themselves by running after him. He shook our hands and said “Welcome to Washington!” He had Eunice and Ethel with him (the two ladies in elegant furs, I recall).

Top that off with a visit to Ford’s Theater for a performance, and we were in heaven. 

We had great kids from all of the US and I recall several kids from other countries, one fellow in particular from Nicaragua.
Great time it was.

we visited a Mosque, a Temple, a Catholic Church, and went to Washington Cathedral. Eye opening to a lot of people really.

Our theatre night was at WolfTrap .. we went to a dinner theatre … Gypsy Rose (can’t recall exactly the name of the play).

I recall taking a bus tour at one point .. we drove by the Watergate Hotel and the hotel were Reagan was shot.

My roommates were from Oklahoma City, OK, Lubbock, TX, and White Plains, NY :)

Ahhh .. memories coming back .. :)

and our play was a 70s classic~ Godspell!My roomies were from Philadelphia, Tyler, TX, North Carolina (i forget the city). Sure brings back memories as I really loved that week in Washington. I think we were like five in the room at the Shoreham because I recall a rollaway bed.
That and the last night when we had a dance… and a lot of tears were shed as the whole thing was coming to an end.


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