The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta Early College Academy students return home tonight after spending a week in the nation’s capitol amidst the government shutdown.
VECA Principal Ingrid Hall accompanied 42 eighth grade students to Washington D.C. for an annual trip sponsored by Valdosta State University. The students arrived Sunday afternoon and visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space
Museum, but by the next morning, talk of a government shutdown loomed over the trip.
“The Close Up Foundation who handled the whole trip realized that things were getting tense, and we had to make some adjustments,” said Hall.
The students visited the National World War II Memorial and the Martin Luther king Jr. Memorial Monday morning, stops that were already on the itinerary. After visiting a food bank, trips to other memorials were added in anticipation that they would be closed if the government shut down.
“Monday evening, we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial,” said Hall.
Those memorials and other sites maintained by the National Park Service are now closed to the public due to the shutdown which began Tuesday.
“We did have to adjust things on Tuesday, but we were able to go to the Capitol Building, and we were able to see Rep. Austin Scott from Tifton. The students sat on the steps of the capitol with Rep. Scott for half an hour and talked about the shutdown,” said Hall.
Students then visited the U.S. Senate and viewed proceedings from the gallery.
“We were able to hear discussions about the budget, the shutdown and Obamacare. It was very interesting,” said Hall.
Rep. Scott hosted a lunch in a House of Representatives office building where students ate in a cafeteria with staffers and other personnel deemed essential during the shutdown. All other federal government employees have been placed on furlough.
Wednesday, the students visited the Gettysburg National Military Park. The park has not been subject to the same closures as other national parks because it is primarily operated by the Gettysburg Foundation, a non-profit partner of the National Park Service.
“Some of the things we planned to see, we weren’t able to go inside, like the F.D.R. and Thomas Jefferson Memorials. Those had been shut down. We weren’t even able to drive by them, and students were really looking forward to it,” said Hall.
Despite the shutdown, Hall believes the trip has been positive.
“It really has given them a chance to experience up close what many people are experiencing from afar,” said Hall.