Delegation on trip to Washington, D.C.

Published 10:25 am Thursday, July 9, 2009

By JOHN EBY / Vigilant/Argus

CASSOPOLIS – For Lauren Burnham of Kids-n-Kids 4-H, Washington affords an opportunity to see the White House and to learn first-hand how legislation is crafted.

Brianna Fitzsimmons, 17, of Penn 4-H, is likewise excited by the prospect of visiting the White House and the Smithsonian, “which I’ve heard is really cool. I might be interested in pursuing a career in politics.”

Brittany Francis of Neighborhood Gang 4-H and the granddaughter of Cass County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Ron Francis, will be making her first trip to Washington, D.C., “so I’m excited to see all that it has to offer. Probably most excited to see the Gettysburg memorial.”

Kyle Miller, king of the 2008 Cass County Fair, is a Washington first-timer.

“One thing I’m looking forward to the most is to visit the Vietnam memorial wall. I remember back when I was little it came to SMC and I walked up and down it with my parents. To see the real thing would be truly astounding,” Miller said. “Also, to see Arlington National Cemetery just to pay my respects to all the soldiers who died serving our country.”

Ashley Rogers, who was unable to attend, sent a letter read to commissioners.

“Although I visited Washington, D.C., once before,” Rogers, of Niles, wrote, “there are many places I haven’t had the opportunity to visit, and I would also like to revisit certain places. I am probably looking forward to visiting the Museum of Natural History the most. While previously in D.C., this museum was my personal favorite and I would love to have the chance to see its many spectacular exhibits once again. I’m also very excited about the chance to meet new people from all over the country.”

Citizenship Washington Focus, or CWF, is an intensive, six-day immersion into the nation’s capital, from sightseeing to learning how to craft legislation.

Cass County’s five-member delegation left on Saturday, June 27.

The quartet was introduced to the Board of Commissioners June 18 by Patty Dohm of the Michigan State University Extension office, standing in for Director Dan Rajzer.

Dohm said her two daughters participated in CWF when they were in 4-H and between the requisite ages of 14 and 19.

“Many 4-Hers think this is the apex of their 4-H careers, to be able to go to CWF,” Dohm said. “Delegates learn about the democratic process and their role as citizens. They get the inside scoop about how government really works from prominent guest speakers. They will attend bill-writing workshops and they will have to come up with their own bills – they just don’t know that yet.”

National issues forums, mock elections and congressional sessions are also part of the package prepared to help mold teen-agers into future leaders.

“Once they return from Washington, D.C., they will prepare a presentation for you,” Dohm advised commissioners. “We’ll be here to talk to you about it at that time.”

“We’ll be looking forward to a very good report when you return,” Chairman Robert Wagel said.

“Take lots of pictures” of the “incredible, beautiful area,” suggested Commissioner Bill Steele, D-Vandalia. “There are at least 40 buildings open to the public with no fee.”

Dohm said a few years ago the CWF Cass County delegation happened to see President Bill Clinton pass a few feet from them.