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Local 9th graders grab spotlight after shutdown ends

A group of 9th graders from Discovery Middle School in Alexandria was in the media spotlight last week during their trip to Washington, D.C. In addition to their photos appearing on the New York Times and Washington Post websites, a news crew from Japan interviewed and featured the group, as well. (Contributed)

It was all about timing last week for a group of 9th graders on a field trip to Washington, D.C.

Thirty-one students from Discovery Middle School and their eight chaperones arrived in D.C. on October 16, just as there was a sliver of hope that the federal government shutdown would end.

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“I was just apprehensive about what we were going to be able to see. We had an alternate route planned,” said Claire Anderson, teacher and trip coordinator.

The government shutdown ended late that night.

Bright and early on October 17, the students learned the government shutdown had ended.

“There was literally applause and cheering at breakfast,” Anderson said. “The kids were so ecstatic.”

First stop: the Lincoln Memorial. That’s where group encountered the media spotlight.

“We were literally the only group that was there when the Lincoln Memorial opened,” Anderson said.

A photographer for the New York Times caught a photo of three students – Lexi Steidl, Kendall Kohler and McKenna Smith – checking the photos they had just taken on their phones. The photo is on the newspaper’s slideshow.

The group of students not only made the New York Times, they were also featured on the USA Today website, Washington Post, StarTribune, and they even had some TV time on KARE-11, the Today Show and a Japanese news program.

“It just so happened there were all these reporters there and it was pretty neat for the kids,” Anderson said.

Despite the media hubbub, there were also lessons learned about the impact of the government shutdown.

Everyone around them – from security guards and custodians to tour guides and congressional staff talked about the shutdown.

“The kids were getting an eye-opening experience as far as, ‘OK, wow that’s what it really meant when the government shut down. None of these people were working.’ That was a good eye-opener for them,” Anderson said.

“In the weeks leading up to the trip, everything was being overshadowed by the government shutdown and the worries about how it would impact the trip,” Anderson said. “Now that the trip is over, I hope that the students are able to focus on the amazing individuals that they saw memorialized because of the huge impact that they have had on our country as well as the rich history that they learned about in our nation's capital.”

In four days, the group squeezed in visits to: the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Newseum, Congressman Collin  Peterson’s office and the U.S. House of Representatives chambers, Smithsonian museums, Arlington National Cemetery, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, National World War II Memorial, Washington National Cathedral and several more.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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