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Nearly two-dozen Santa Maria Joint Union High School District students are spending the week exploring the foundations of democracy in Washington, D.C.

The civics education program called “Close Up Washington D.C.” is paid for with “Close Up” Fellowships, fund-raising activities, the Migrant Program, and the student’s own contributions.

The young scholars - many of whom are from SMJUHSD’s Migrant Education Program - have visited the White House, Capitol Hill and other historical sites. They also participated in a mock congressional debate with other students from throughout the United States and watched the House of Representatives in action and vote. Students say our political process is engaging.

"The trip to Washington D.C. is giving me a new perspective in politics,’’ said Vanesa Rivas, a senior at Righetti. “The workshops are fantastic.’’Justin Suarez agreed.

"In our Mock Congress, I loved debating with people who are genuinely interested in politics,’’ said Suarez, a senior at SMHS. “I had an adrenaline rush pushing for my side to be favorable against my opponents."

SMHS Teacher Amy Hennings said the “Close Up” program is a powerful educational experience for students.

“It informs, inspires, and empowers young people to exercise their rights and accept the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy,’’ Hennings said.

The students, who are from Santa Maria, Righetti and Pioneer Valley High Schools left last Saturday and return tomorrow.

NONDISCRIMINATION POLICY: The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District is committed to ensuring equal, fair, and meaningful access to employment and education services. The SMJUHSD does not discriminate in any employment practice, education program, or educational activity on the basis and/or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics of age, ancestry, color, disability, ethnicity, ethnic group identifications, gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, marital, family or parental status, medical condition, military or veteran status, nationality, national origin, immigration status, political affiliation, pregnancy and related conditions, race, religion, retaliation, sex (including sexual harassment), sexual orientation, or any other basis prohibited by California state and federal nondiscrimination laws respectively. Not all bases of discrimination will apply to both education services and employment. If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying, immediately contact the District’s Discrimination, Equity and Title IX Compliance Officer Mr. Kevin R. Platt at 2560 Skyway Drive, Santa Maria, CA 93455, (805) 922-4573 or You may request a copy of SMJUHSD’s Uniform Complaint Procedures, Non-Discrimination Policies, Sexual Harassment Policies or click here.