Eighth Graders Advocate for Gun Control in Washington D.C.

As graduation approaches for our oldest students, they culminate their time at CDS with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a week-long trip to Washington D.C. where they not only see the sights but also have the opportunity to act as changemakers!
Each year, Eighth Grade Humanities Teacher Terry Ashkinos guides his students as they choose a social issue that’s important to them, design a petition calling on the government to take action, collect signatures from San Francisco residents, and finally present their work in person to a leading government official. This year, their project was to advocate for the end of gun violence in America, and on their trip they delivered hundreds of signatures to the offices of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein.
The students packed an amazing amount of learning and sightseeing into just five days. Their schedule included a White House tour, trips to museums (the Smithsonian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Archives, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and more), and visits to the memorials of figures ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr. to Franklin D. Roosevelt to Thomas Jefferson. They also found time to take in a performance of Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center, a ghost tour through Alexandria, VA, and even a bowling night (“Terry said he would drop our research papers if someone beat him. He later admitted that was never true, but it gave us the strength to try our best,” said one student). Naturally, the key points of the trip were the students’ meetings with Rep. Pelosi’s Director of Legislation and Sen. Feinstein’s staff, where they got the chance to speak with those in power and advocate for what they feel is right.
The eighth graders’ final verdict: “Our Washington D.C. trip was one we will never forget because of the experiences we had visiting the three branches of government, touring the beautiful city, meeting with congressional staffers, and going to amazing museums—but also because of the chance to be together.” This journey was an amazing example of students being just and courageous changemakers while also developing a meaningful sense of community.
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