Originally created 03/15/05

Presidential Classroom is diverse



It was just a snowball fight, but I'll never forget it. There were guys from New York, Alabama, Texas, and South Carolina. A couple of girls were there from Michigan and Pennsylvania. There also was a group of teenagers from Puerto Rico and Texas seeing snow for the first time. It was just a good old-fashioned snowball fight that will always be a great memory. Oh, did I mention it was behind the White House?

In January, I spent eight days in Washington, D.C., in the Presidential Classroom, a program that gives high school students a firsthand look at the political process. I've always been interested in politics and current events, and I knew I wanted to go to what the brochure says was "not your typical week in Washington." That definitely turned out to be true.

Speakers ranged from Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to Patricia de Stacy Harrison, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. All of the speakers discussed current issues ranging from slave trafficking to the media's influence on society.

We also did a lot of sightseeing. I had been to D.C. before, but never in the wintertime. The city, including the monuments, was blanketed in snow.

Two days were spent on Capitol Hill to visit our congressmen's offices. Our free time was spent around the congressional offices and the Capitol. It was amazing to see someone walking down the hall and then see him or her on CNN or C-SPAN moments later.

Most of the week was spent with a caucus of about 40 students. Among participating in the seminars, working on a current events report and traveling around the city together, the group really connected. The caucus I was in was nicknamed the "Super Caucus" because we were always the group asking questions and starting chants. On the last day we even sang to our bus driver.

The most amazing part of the program was spending time with such a diverse group. My roommates were from California, Pennsylvania and Illinois. About 80 teens from Texas and Puerto Rico spoke Spanish fluently. There was a guy from California who looked like the movie character Napoleon Dynamite and another guy from Texas who looked like John F. Kennedy. I really enjoyed learning about different parts of the country.

I found that some things are entirely different in different parts of this nation. Depending on where you go, a carbonated beverage can be a soda, a pop, a soda pop, or just a Coke. More than one person in the program had never heard of grits, much less tried them. Being the true Southerner that I am, I got grits from the cafeteria and, after adding the correct amount of butter, salt and pepper, served them. Thanks to me, there is now one New Yorker who actually likes grits.

During the week, you could tell what region of the country paeple were from just by listening to them talk. Apparently, I have a "small" accent, and by the end of the week about half the people there called me "Georgia."

Some things, however, are exactly the same. If you put four girls from four sections of the country into a room, they will all bring at least one curling iron and a hair dryer. Or you can have a conversation with five or six teenage guys from all over and it is only a matter of time before they begin quoting Napoleon Dynamite.

No matter how different people seem, they all have something in common. I went to D.C. to discover that it really is "a small world, after all."

Lauren Brown, 17, is a senior at Briarwood Academy.