My Experiences at the 2019 FRS Youth Tour
By Madeline Mitchell
Editor’s note: Madeline Mitchell of Akeley, Minn., is a student at Nevis High School. She was selected by Arvig to attend the 2019 Foundation for Rural Services (FRS) Youth Tour, June 1-5 in Washington, D.C. Mitchell joined more than 100 other high school students from rural America for an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, where she got an inside view at the legislation and governmental process of the telecommunication industry. Arvig asked Madeline to write a summary about her experience so we could share it with our blog readers and customers.
The Foundation for Rural Service Youth Tour was a one-of-a-kind experience that I will never forget. I’d like to thank everyone at Arvig for allowing me to participate in such an eye-opening opportunity. While on the trip, I learned so much about my nation and what has gotten our country to where we are now. I was so fortunate to be able to explore and learn so much in our nation’s capital, from learning about rural broadband to gaining new information about our country. I am truly grateful for this amazing opportunity.
My first day upon arriving to Washington D.C. was quite relaxing. My plane ride that day was only 2 hours and 30 minutes long, which was not bad at all. When I arrived at the Reagan Airport in D.C. I was met by FRS staff right away and they were all so welcoming. I took a shuttle to the hotel with about 15 other kids and when I arrived I checked and was greeted by even more welcoming staff members. Than about 30 minutes after this dinner was ready. There I sat with fellow Minnesota kids from all over the state. They were all very kind. During dinner, the staff reviewed our agenda and explained our next day. After dinner, I went to my room and talked to my roommate about her rural community. I learned that she only has 24 students in her whole high school, which is insane! Even after the first day, I could already tell that this tour was going to be life changing.
The second day while I was at breakfast, I made more friends, this time from Missouri, Tennessee, Montana and Kentucky. The girls from Tennessee and Montana were girls from the team, so I spent a lot of time with them and learned so much about other states. Everyone hopped on the buses after breakfast and we were off to the Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery was a very somber moment, yet very educational. I learned so much while I visited. One thing that I found particularly interesting at Arlington Cemetery was the changing of the guards. Before that moment, I had never witnessed such a ceremony and I found it to be very fascinating. Once we left the Arlington Cemetery we went into Washington D.C. to explore the many Smithsonians and museums. There were so many there and I wish I had more time to visit all of them. The two I choose to visit were the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the National Gallery of Art.
First, I visited the American History Museum, and it was outstanding! The museum showed everything from the major political event to the coke can used during a specific era. I enjoyed that museum the most because of its wide variety of information and exhibits.
Next, I went to the National Gallery of Art. This past school year, I took a college art class that made me appreciate art more, so I decided I would like to visit the art gallery while I was in D.C. The gallery was ginormous and consisted of so many different exhibits. I had to say my favorite exhibit was the Tintoretto Renaissance exhibit. To be completely honest, I’m not sure why I found it so interesting, probably because of its age and detail in each piece.
After the museums, FRS staff took all of us to eat at Union Station. This was quite the experience just because I had never been in a bus station. I grabbed my food and sat down with my new friends and we examined all the amazing architecture within the building. In fact, all the building I had visited that day had outstanding architecture that really caught my eye. When I finished eating, I quickly hopped back on my bus and prepared myself for our night tour. Every part about the night tour was astonishing because the monuments looked gorgeous in the smoky skies. While on the night tour, we saw many different parts of D.C. We saw the White House, WWII, Vietnam and Korean War memorials, and the Lincoln Memorial. My favorite part of the night tour was seeing the Vietnam Memorial. This one felt very special to me because my grandfather had fought in that war. After the tour, I was so tired that I went right to sleep.
The third day at Washington was just as hectic as the second. I started the day with some delicious breakfast and a review of the day’s activities. After that, I loaded my bus and readied myself for the educational session on “the Hill.” The Hill is where the Capitol is located, and we had our educational session in one of the senate buildings on the top floor. Our educational session was on broadband in remote locations, such as the towns all of us kids live in. I learned about how the Foundation for Rural Service works and what they do to keep our towns telecommunication companies work. After the educational session, I chose to take a tour of the Capitol building with a few others. The whole tour was super interesting, and I learned so much. My favorite part of the whole tour was the introduction video. I found that the most interesting because it was very inclusive to everyone in the United States and I feel like that highlighted America well. When the tour had finished I had about two hours left to explore, and I thought the Library of Congress would be a neat place to visit.
When I got to the Library of Congress, I was in awe with all the breathtaking and intricate artwork all over the building. The Library of Congress ended up being my favorite part of the whole trip because I was amazed by every little detail in there. My most favorite part of Library was the main reading room. In this room the art on the walls were the eight characteristics of civilized societies. Each of the characteristics were so distinct.
After this, I met with my wonderful chaperones and we got together with everyone to go tour the Thomas Jefferson, FDR, and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials. All these memorials were on one big walking path, which I found very cool. The memorial I liked the most was the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I think I liked this one best because it was different from all the other ones I had visited. His memorial seemed like he was walking out of this giant white stone. I later looked up a deeper meaning behind the memorial which made me like it even more, as well. When I had finished viewing the memorials, the buses once again picked us up and we all went bowling. This was just a fun way for all the kids and chaperones to interact and learn more about each other. After bowling, we went back to the hotel and had breakout sessions as a group. In these sessions, we discussed problems in rural communities and how we solve them as adolescents. The problems ranged anywhere from agriculture to drugs. Once the sessions were done, we all headed to bed and prepared ourselves for another long day tomorrow.
The fourth day started just as all the others did. I went down to the meeting area, had breakfast and the chaperones reviewed our daily activities with us. From there, we headed to our second and last educational session at the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC was very tight on security, so it took almost an hour to get all of us in there. Fortunately, I got to be one of the first ones to go in because of my young age. While at the FCC, I listened to many people speak on rural telecommunication problems, but my favorite speaker was Chairman Ajit Pai. When he spoke, he addressed many of the questions us teenagers had and gave us very useful information on the subjects, which I enjoyed. After our session at the FCC, we went to visit the Newseum. The Newseum was my second favorite part of this trip. This was because the exhibits in the Newseum was very impactful, which they had to be to have been in the newspaper in the first place. There was a large exhibit on 9/11 that was detailed and sad. Then there was an exhibit on LGBTQ rights that I enjoyed seeing because it is still considered to be a new “thing” in society. My favorite exhibit out of all of them though had to be all the daily Newspapers from around the world hung up by this beautiful balcony overlooking the Capitol building. Not only was the view great, but the hundreds of different newspapers from that day posted on the walls were so unique.
Once we left the Newseum, we had almost a two-hour ride to Mount Vernon where George Washington once lived. While I was there, I toured his house and almost all his land. Mount Vernon had a very old modern feeling to it. They had everything there, including the real livestock on his farm. My favorite part of Mount Vernon was the lower garden. Before I visited the lower garden, I toured the upper garden which was mostly vegetables, but hidden away in this tiny corner of the property was this gorgeous lower garden. I fell in love with it because of how bright and colorful all the flowers were. While at Mount Vernon, I also had the privilege to visit George Washington’s resting place. It was quite an honor to be this close to our nation’s first president. After I left Mount Vernon, I went back to the hotel and sat down for dinner in the meeting room. I was caught a little off guard when we were served a very fancy dinner, but that didn’t matter to me because it tasted delicious. Once I had finished dinner, we did drawings for prizes that had been donated by other telephone companies. Sadly, I am not a super lucky person and I was not drawn for any prizes, but that was okay because I was more excited for the dance. When the prize drawings finished, the lights were dimmed and the dance had begun. I danced with all my newly made friends all night until I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. Then I said all my goodbyes and packed for my flight that was very early in the morning.
My fifth and final day I work up around 5 a.m. and double checked to make sure I had packed everything. After I finished checking the whole room I said goodbye to my roommate and headed down to the lobby to go to the airport. Luckily, when I got to the airport, some of my new friends were on the same flight as me, so I was able to talk to them for a while longer. I then boarded my flight at 8 a.m. and said my second goodbyes to more of my friends. Once my flight had landed, I was already talking and calling my friends that I met in Washington D.C. I wished them all safe flights and that hopefully one day we will all meet up again. I started to walk to baggage claim where I was met by my mother, which is when I really realized my trip was over.
My trip to Washington D.C. was one of the greatest opportunities that I have ever had, and I am so thankful for Arvig choosing me to represent their company. I learned so much and met so many new friends while there. I hope that Arvig continues to send teens on this trip, so they can experience the same life changing events I did. Thank you, once again, to everyone at Arvig for allowing me to participate in such an impactful and educational trip.