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IHS Close-Up Program desperate for funding

IRONTON — A popular educational program that offers high school students an in-depth and interactive view of the national democratic process, is in need of outside funding as participation has grown to levels not seen in years.

The Close-Up Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization that allows high school students the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. and witness government first hand, has been a long-time extracurricular at Ironton High School.

Integrated Social Studies teacher and Close-Up faculty liaison Brian Bowling addressed the Ironton Board of Education Tuesday night asking for any assistance possible in continuing the program for 2010.

He said Ironton High School is the only high school left in the county that participates in the Close-Up program.

Bowling told the board that in past school years, four to eight students would sign up for the trip, but this year 18 students have shown in interest in the highly interactive program.

The approximate cost for each student to attend the six-day, five night program is $1,700, according to Bowling.

He added that students have been conducting a variety of fundraisers in the attempt to raise a portion of the tuition needed.

“I wanted to talk to you as I know the budget is currently very tight and this is an expensive trip,” Bowling said. “However this is a unique opportunity for our kids. This is a very intensive program and not a sight-seeing tour.”

Bowling said in previous years the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce has donated money to offset student costs of the trip, but said this year he has not received any reply following numerous attempts in contacting them.

Board Member Jerry Rowe, who also serves as plant manager for Liebert Corp., told Bowling he has been in discussions with the Chamber on the matter.

The board also heard first hand accounts from Ironton Senior Katy King who participated in the Close-Up program this past school year. King said the experience was “incredible.”

“This was a very educational and a very worthwhile program,” said King, who confessed to the board her trip to the nation’s capital was also her first time on an airplane.

Founded in 1970, the Close-Up Foundation’s high school program features students meeting with elected officials on Capital Hill, structured learning activities at the many historic monuments and memorials and the chance to “live and learn” with students from across the country.

Some colleges and universities also allow participation in the program to be put towards one credit of college.

While fun, the Close-Up program is also very challenging for students.

A typical day starts at around 7 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Tuition for the program is all-inclusive and covers room, board, in-town travel, supervision and security.