8th Grade Trip: A Journey to our Nation’s Capital

The Meadows School campus with green trees and paved sidewalks in Las Vegas, Nevada
8th Grade Trip: A Journey to our Nation’s Capital

I still remember being a 9th grader while visiting Washington, D.C. It was a rite of passage for me: my first time away from home without parents and my first time seeing the East Coast, let alone the capital. I kept that perspective as I embarked on the 8th grade trip during the first week of September. The entire 8th grade class, myself (Mr. Scott Trujillo), Ms. Renee Jarvis, Mr. Nathan Holmes, Mr. David Fisher, and Mrs. Maria Leon took part in this memorable journey. 

And a journey it was. We had an action-packed itinerary, visiting as many monuments, memorials, and museums as we possibly could in the 5-day trip. We partnered with The Close Up Foundation, an educational, not-for-profit organization that has been the leader in educational experiences in our capital since 1971. The students landed at Dulles International Airport, unpacked at our home-away-from-home, the Crown Plaza in Arlington, and then met our educational guides. From there, the students participated in workshops introducing them to the concepts of civic engagement via policies that affect them. Seeing my students in a hotel conference room, “out on business” so to speak, was a special moment. They talked about the challenges they face as students these days: safety, social media use, inclusion, college admissions, and so forth. It really helped lay the foundation for understanding how they are a part of something bigger. 

After visiting the White House, multiple memorials, and the National Archive, the students had another seminar. This time, we met at a local church hosting Joy De Guzman from the Asian Americans Advancing Justice organization. The students listened to her story and the policies she was concerned with. As an Asian American, she talked about stereotypes and how past policies have affected people like her. She also talked about wanting to pursue politics in the near future. She shared a vision and goal of progress, something the students could all empathize with. Importantly, she is also young and up-and-coming. Ms. De Guzman was someone that the students could relate to. Transitioning to the evening, the students visited many of our revered war memorials. We walked around in the moonlit shadows, reading the names of fallen soldiers, and discussing the nature of war. One student remarked, “There really are no winners in war.”

The next morning, we met for the final seminar. The goal was to take current issues identified by our students and understand how policy is addressing them. This is where the nature of 8th graders strikes me as amazing; they are part kid and part adult, truly at a transition in their lives. One can observe them beginning to look past themselves and beginning to think about the broader community. One such example was enveloped in a tough topic: gun control relating to student safety. Listening to their perspective on what they hear on the news and what they hear from the adults around them makes you quickly realize they are not kids anymore. They have firm ideas and opinions. They want to argue and feel heard. They communicate frustrations and unfairness. Most importantly, they speak like they advocate for the greater good and not just themselves, recognizing they are part of a community that comes with obligations. A special visit to Capitol Hill punctuated our day with a meet-and-greet with our two state senators and office staff, where our students had opportunities to ask their policy questions. 

The final moments were filled with museums and memorials, plus some much-needed downtime in Chinatown. A final stop at the Smithsonian Museums capped off what was certainly a journey. And like all journeys, there were plenty of challenges and adversity to be met. We dealt with some of the hottest and muggiest weather D.C. has seen, with mosquitos that seemed homed in on our Vegas blood. There was social drama to overcome and dress code policy to be frustrated over. There was homesickness to be had, and airport delays that exasperated all. These were real difficulties that can dominate an 8th grader’s mentality, but what struck a chord in me happened Monday morning in my first class. As I exhaustedly started the day, there was a buzz. There was a camaraderie amongst them and between us. I looked at them differently. They looked at me differently. We had just been through a journey together.

Scott Trujillo
Middle School Science Teacher

  • Middle School