Calhoun Social Studies Teacher Dan Cosgrove and Freshmen
Darla Harrison enjoyed a beautiful day in Washington DC

By Dan Cosgrove

A teacher and student were selected from each of the 50 states to represent their state at a national Constitution Day celebration in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Calhoun Middle/High School Teacher Dan Cosgrove and student Darla Harrison were selected from West Virginia. Harrison was identified as the West Virginia Student Ambassador.

The pair flew out of Charleston on Tuesday, September 16, and arrived at Dulles International Airport, where a driver and limousine were waiting. They were taken to their hotel where representatives from the Close Up Foundation met the pair.

Close Up is an organization that provides the logistics for students who visit Washington, arranging transportation, accommodations, and security for students. Girls were housed on one floor of the hotel, while boys were on another with security personnel monitoring hallways throughout their stay. While teachers had single rooms, students were matched up with another student from around the country. Harrison met her roommate, a fellow freshman from New Orleans. They quickly became friends and were inseparable during the event. Likewise, the two teachers of these students also became friends, and hope to start a pen-pal program and skype opportunities between their schools.

Roommates with their teachers

The event was sponsored by the Civic Renewal Network (CRN), a consortium of 26 non-profit, non-partisan and government organizations that promote Civic Education. Part of the celebration was the launch of their website which connects the various organizations, providing a central location of civic related resources for classroom teachers and students www.civicrenewalnetwork.org

A welcome dinner was followed by separate workshops for teachers and students. A conference room was also made available Tuesday and Wednesday evening as a lounge for the students to get to know each other. Many friendships were made between these 50 amazing students.

The focus of the trip took place on Wednesday where students and teachers started the day by participating in the Preamble Challenge. As part of Constitution Day, close to 800 schools around the country had students recite the Preamble to the Constitution, many at historical sites. This group recited the Preamble on the Capitol steps. The group returned to their charter buses with teachers heading to the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the 1st Amendment, for a panel discussion, while students headed to the National Archives to participate in a naturalization ceremony surrounded by the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. Teachers and students met for lunch, and then headed back to Capitol Hill to meet with their respective state's legislators.

Before their first meeting with Congresswoman Shelley Moore-Capito, Cosgrove and Harrison attended a committee meeting on "Women and Counter-Terrorism." They then met with Capito. Harrison and Capito had an engaging conversation on a variety of issues. However, probably the most poignant moment was when Capito mentioned she was leaving early because of the passing of her mother. With Cosgrove giving his condolences, Darla simply gave her a big hug—it was welcomed.

Teacher and student then headed to the basement to take the congressional subway system to the Senate side of the Capitol to meet with Senator Manchin. However, Manchin had to step out, and his aides met with the pair. Harrison was given a tour of his office and had lengthy discussions with his aides.

After leaving Senator Manchin's office, they made a quick trip to the Supreme Court and Library of Congress. They then boarded buses back to the Newseum for a reception and dinner. At dinner, students and their teacher were paired up at tables with the sponsors of the CRN. In many cases, the representatives were actually the executive directors, presidents and leaders of their organizations.

Harrison with her new friends, the president of the American
Bar Association and two of the top lawyers in the country

Harrison and Cosgrove were seated with a representative from the Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the President of the American Bar Association and two of the top lawyers in the country. Harrison had a lively conversation with the lawyers throughout the evening. Watching Harrison, it was evident it was not a child being placated by two superior adults, but more like peers on equal footing. After dinner, with quick goodbyes, other people who were vying for the attention of the lawyers moved in. Harrison met up with her roommate and group of friends and left the room. As Cosgrove was leaving, one of the lawyers broke away from the group and chased him down. She said they were impressed with Harrison and wanted her to participate in a program sponsored by the American Bar Association. They want to bring her back to Washington D.C. later in the year for their program.

Throughout the trip, Harrison showed a maturity and intellect that impressed everyone she came in contact with. She exemplifies the true meaning of the Preamble, on equal footing with government leaders at every level, "We the People of the United States..." This country is truly about the people, by the people and for the people, and anyone who met Harrison definitely know who Darla is, one heck of a person.

Darla is the daughter of Kenneth and Tonya Harrison of Chloe, West Virginia.

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