May 8, 2015
ACS Close to Home Teens Visit Washington DC Historical Sites
At 5:15 am on Friday, May 8, six young men and five staff members from the 128th Street, Close to Home non-secure placement facility in Ozone Park, Queens, left for a whirlwind weekend trip to Washington, D.C. Taking the young men to the nation’s capital grew out of a partnership with Unlocking Futures-Warrior Program, a mentoring project for young men, and a desire for the teens to learn about U.S. history. Ed Michel, the group leader at the residence run by SCO Family of Services, created a full, well-organized three-day itinerary.
To prepare, Ed researched extensively before the trip so he could offer the young men meaningful lessons. Here, Ed recounts the trip and what he hopes the teens got out of it: “The number one thing I reiterated to these young people was ‘This trip this is not only about you. This is about other young people who are in the same situation, or will be, to have the opportunity to leave New York State’…Our young people suffer… because they are not often exposed to a lot of different things …they only know the four corners of their neighborhood…A trip like this can be a catalyst to reduce recidivism and …to push forward.
We left early because I wanted to make sure the young people got the full impact of Washington D.C. and to see as much as possible… I wanted to hit the ground running… Our first stop was the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. They thought it was awesome to see the way planes have evolved...Over eight million people visit the Smithsonian every year…and I thought it was important for them to be part of that…It’s a very hands-on museum. You can touch and feel the exhibits… including astronauts wear and what they eat… There was also an exhibit where they got to feel what it’s like to sit in a rocket in confined quarters…and then we went to the Steven Udvar-Hazy Center…where they have a Blackbird plane, one of fastest planes that can go from New York to California in an hour and ten minutes… Art is so often used to motivate young people that I needed to peak their interest with air and space, and planet Earth…It was key for them to understand that just because you live in New York City, you have still have the ability to visit other places, to expand your mind…
Back at the hotel, the Marriott Suites in Virginia, they went swimming and had dinner…In the morning, we headed to the National Smithsonian Zoo where they were most interested in the pandas… A highlight of the trip was meeting up with other kids and mentors from Unlocking Futures on the steps of the U.S. capitol building… and saw the Washington Monument…the kids were kind of amazed how that was developed… they learned facts about it, like that the monument is about 555 feet high…and also how when you are at Washington monument you can see the White House to the right… From the Washington monument you can walk to the Lincoln memorial…and as we walked, we talked about Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech and where it took place…
The thing that affected them the most? I’m going to say the capitol building because that’s where the laws of the land are made…I told them ‘The people who sit in this building actually make the laws you live by today… I kind of painted the big picture… how it funnels down... Also seeing the White House and actually seeing the snipers on top of the building; and understanding that the President is the most powerful person in the free world…They wanted to know different things about being President… about Air Force One…and the limo that carries the President’s blood type… I looked up all this stuff before we left…
We also talked about the Secret Service and how they protect the President and will put their life on the line for the President…that each President has a their own library after their term…they asked good questions…On Sunday we actually went on a land and sea tour with DC ducks …We saw other monuments.. the Thurgood Marshall Building….We discussed how Thurgood Marshall was the first African American on the supreme court…and how he argued Brown vs. the Board of Education as a lawyer…We also talked the Vietnam memorial…we drove by Arlington Cemetery and we talked about the eternal flame for President Kennedy…And they got an opportunity to go on the Potomac River…and tto he U.S. Postal museum…Yes, we did all of that…I think the trip gave the kids a boost, an aura…they said things like, ‘Wow I’m actually leaving the state of New York…this is the first time I have ever stayed in a hotel…’ The trip showed them they can do more and strive for better…”
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