DAY 1: Austin, Texas
Today, we started off at 6:45 a.m. with breakfast then headed to the Texas State Cemetery. We got to see amazing things such as pieces of the World Trade Center, Chris Kyle’s headstone and Stephen F. Austin’s memorial statue.
Then, we took a trip to the state Capitol, where we got to see the Senate chamber and House of Representatives.
Next, we visited the Zilker Botanical Garden and got to see some cute plants, animals and waterfalls.
Lastly, we visited the Bullock Texas State History Museum to learn about Texas history, World War I-era America and more.
So far, so fun!
DAY 2: Austin, Texas, to Washington, D.C.
Waking up at 2:30 this morning to be at the airport by 4 a.m. for a flight that wasn’t until 8 a.m., today started off early and ended late!
After a safe two-hour flight, we made it to D.C. and hit the ground running at the National Museum of American History.
I learned about everything from food to human rights.
My top two favorite exhibits consisted of the first ladies’ exhibit and their dresses and the World War II exhibit.
DAY 3: Museum of the Bible, Arlington National Cemetery and Old Town Alexandria
Today was a whirlwind of fun!
Started off bright and early at the Museum of the Bible, where I was able to see so many things that taught me more and gave me chills.
I was able to see how the Bible has been carried throughout the centuries and see firsthand how it can affect so many different generations, cultures, social statuses and professions.
My most favorite part, was walking through a 45(ish)-minute exhibit called “Hebrew Bible,” which took us through a real-life experience of stories from the Old Testament, including those of Adam and Eve, Jacob and Joseph, Moses, Naomi and Ruth, and more. Experiencing the Old Testament presented in such an impactful way brought chills down my spine and tears to my eyes.
Next, we stopped at the mall for lunch, where I got to try a treat called “Dragon Balls,” which is like a little Cheetos Puff-textured ball that tastes like cereal that is soaked in liquid nitrogen to create the smoke; it was so cold!
Then, we traveled to Arlington National Cemetery, where I was able to see the changing of the guard, a wreath-laying ceremony and memorials such as the President John F. Kennedy gravesite.
Today was a long, fun, memorable day!
DAY 4: Mount Vernon and Potomac River cruise
This morning we started off at Mount Vernon, where we were able to tour George Washington’s entire estate and see so much about what his life was like and how he was an amazing first leader of our country. We were able to see his gravesite, where he was buried with Martha, as well as tour his home.
Along with the mansion, we also toured the upper gardens and the museum itself, which focused on his life before, during and after becoming general, along with his presidency.
Then, this evening, we hopped aboard the Spirit of Washington to take a Potomac River boat cruise with a dance and dinner. We enjoyed a great meal, and lots of fun memories were made out on the dance floor.
I have made so many friends, and I am loving every minute of being here!
DAY 5: The White House, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Jefferson Memorial
Wow! Today was full of many fun events and lots of walking—16,975 steps to be exact!
We started off at the White House for a group photo, where we witnessed many different kinds of protesters and solicitors. Also, as a group, we waved to the men on the roof with snipers and sang “The stars at night, are big and bright,” and they waved back!
Then, we took a trip over to the Smithsonian Institution, where I was able to visit the National Museum of Natural History with my group and see a variety of exhibitions.
Next, probably the most meaningful part of today, our group split up to go to different museums, and we chose to go to the National Museum of African American History. We spent most of our time on the floor dedicated to the history of slavery and freedom. Seeing all of the things that are a part of our history made my heart so heavy and brought tears to my eyes. You never truly are able to understand what others have been through until you get the slightest taste of how things were for them.
Later, we traveled to the Jefferson Memorial, where we were able to slow down, cool off and just take time to look at the beautiful sights and memorials that were around us.
Lastly, this evening, we got to hear from a phenomenal motivational speaker, Mike Schlappi. He kept things real as he shared his story and brought words of truth and encouragement that I will always remember. I got an autographed book and picture with him! I highly encourage you to look him up and hear his story.
So excited for tomorrow as we get to meet with our congressional representatives on Capitol Hill!
DAY 6: U.S. Capitol, U.S. House of Representatives and Library of Congress
Today was AMAZING! We started off waking up at 5 a.m. to get the day started and head to the Capitol. We met the office dog, Sully, of U.S. Congressman Van Taylor of District 3.
Then, we visited the office of our District 8 congressman, Kevin Brady, and got to meet with his legislative assistant and counsel, Austin Bray. Brady was on a flight in from Texas as the House was in session today.
With Brady, we were given a rundown of the typical daily schedule in the office and got to hear about some of the specific bills he has handled, such as one dealing with the high-speed railway that could potentially affect our district.
Next, we got to tour the BEAUTIFUL U.S. Capitol, see everything inside of it and experience the meaning of each part of it. We visited the old Senate chamber and the old Supreme Court chamber. After that, we visited the current House of Representatives chamber. It was an incredible experience getting to see it live.
Then, we headed over to the Library of Congress, walking through the underground tunnels that run from building to building on Capitol Hill, which were created originally for congressmen to travel back and forth from buildings without being mobbed or bothered by the public.
At the Library of Congress, we got to go on the balcony above the main reading room and see everything in it. I asked around to see if we could get library cards, AND WE COULD! So, we headed to the ground level, filled out the paperwork and went through the process to become official holders of a reading card at the U.S. Library of Congress.
Overall, I have gained so much knowledge about our country and how it is orchestrated, and I have gained an interest in history, politics and government that I NEVER imagined I would have.
DAY 7: Ford’s Theatre, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Newseum
Wow. Today was an emotional roller coaster, to say the least. We started off at Ford’s Theatre, where we got to see an exact replica of the booth where President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. (The government seized the original soon after the shooting.)
Then, we got to travel to the National Mall, have a pizza picnic for lunch and take a few hours to tour all of the monuments and memorials.
One of the coolest things about this part of the day was when we got to visit with two Vietnam War veterans who told us all about what it was like going into the war. One of them lost his 18-year-old brother after the brother had been serving in Vietnam for one week. Their stories and wise words left our entire group without a dry eye.
Next, we went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. To begin to go into detail about the emotions brought up from all of the things I saw would have us here for days. I was blessed to already know so much about the genocide due to my wonderful teachers, such as Ms. Teston. However, getting to see the exhibits that were put together in such a way, with sights, sounds and smells to allow you to experience the museum fully, just caused me to bawl my eyes out the entire time.
We got to travel through a timeline of events of how things happened, and I also received an identification card of a girl, Laura, who tells her personal story of her experience being Jewish during the Holocaust. To see the names of the communities and individuals that were destroyed and killed broke my heart, and seeing the shoes, tattoos and videos of the bodies when camps were liberated made me sick to my stomach. My hope for everyone is that you may one day learn as much as you can and experience a recap of this part of our history so that you may understand what, why and how it all happened and prevent it from ever happening again.
Lastly, we visited the Newseum, which the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association rented out for all of the states on Youth Tour to have dinner and enjoy the last night with one another.
Overall, this trip has definitely been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I would trade anything I have to do it all over again, and I will forever hold dear the friendships, knowledge and memories that I have taken away from it.