The field trip began with students learning about our state’s historical roots in the Museum of Florida History. I led the tour along with Scott Beck from Step Up’s Office of Student Learning. Students got to sit in the original chamber of the House of Representatives, inside the Old Capitol (now referred to as the Florida Historic Capitol Museum), and even participate in a mock debate. Later, they got to visit the modern Senate Chamber and hear from two current lawmakers on the issues that are important to the legislators.
Rep. Manny Diaz, of Hialeah, talked about education and school choice, and encouraged the students to advocate on behalf of school-choice issues when they graduate, since they have had the benefit of this option.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, of St. Petersburg, talked about the future of transportation, including Uber and driverless cars. The students were enthralled by this concept and asked lots of questions.
It just so happened to be “STEM Day at the Capitol,” a day that focuses on the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Students interacted with a life-size robot, watched marshmallows freeze through the process of chemical reaction, and learned anatomy while playing a giant version of the “Operation” board game.
Hope Academy students and leaders also visited the top of the Capitol Building, on the 22nd floor to get a bird’s-eye view of Tallahassee. Finally, the day ended with a tour of the Florida Supreme Court, where students learned about our judicial branch of government.
The roundtrip ride to Tallahassee took 19 hours, but school leaders said it was all worth it to be able to experience the legislative process, meet lawmakers and learn about government in the state Capital. It was a special day for all involved, and not one these kids will soon forget.
The majority of Hope Academy’s approximately 300 students receive the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship through Step Up for Students.
Sara Clements is the director of external affairs at Step Up for Students. Her primary job is educating lawmakers and other elected officials on the Florida Tax Credit and Gardiner scholarship (formerly known as the Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts) programs and, as part of that work, helping scholarship parents and students share their experience of the program with lawmakers. During her off time, she enjoys reading and volunteering with a local animal rescue organization.