Conference Youth Set Off for Justice Trip to Washington, D.C.

Our summer High School Youth Trip is in full swing, with 71 youth and adults in Washington, DC, for a week of service learning and legislative advocacy! Youth from throughout the MN Conference are lobbying members of congress about issues important to them, learning about root causes of systemic oppression through direct service opportunities, and touring significant sites. This post will be updated throughout the week so check back!

Friday, July 21
Youth and adults settled into two hostels and enjoyed dinner from We the Pizza. Bree from Mayflower UCC and Liam from St. Anthony Park UCC led ice breaker activities before we settled into our small groups. We ended the night with information about what to expect at the Holocaust Museum.

Saturday, July 22
We headed to the Holocaust Museum where we saw the atrocities of World War II, heard from survivors, learned about resistances, and explored the role of the U.S. in the build-up to, during, and after the war. The museum also had an exhibit on the crisis in Myanmar and the Rohingya (Muslim minority group) who have been tortured, killed, and forced from their homes and businesses.

After lunch in the park, we visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to prepare for the next day. After debriefing about our experience at the Holocaust Museum, we ended with reading several children’s books by African-American authors in our small groups to prepare for our time at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Sunday, July 23
We worshiped with the welcoming First Congregational United Church of Christ on Capitol Hill. We spent some time in fellowship with the congregation before having lunch and hearing from the curator of culture and music, Dwandalyn Reese, about what to expect when we visit the African American Museum. Thaddaeus Elliott, Justice and Peace Policy Fellow at the UCC Office of Public Policy and Advocacy in D.C., also discussed some of the prep work the youth would be doing around gun violence and environmental justice (two of the three issues the youth wanted to discuss) with legislators.

In the afternoon we walked from the church to the museum, passing by Ford Theater where President Abraham Lincoln was shot. Later that night, we had a discussion with three young adults—Liam Magistad from St. Anthony Park, Cecilia from New Brighton, and Isaac Van Wert from Mayflower—who shared their experiences in youth groups and members of the UCC church. They remarked on how their churches helped them find meaning and purpose in their respective work in the church, a non-profit organization, and the military.

Monday, July 24
We had a guided tour through the U.S. Capitol. Youth learned about the history and symbolism of the building and discussed how much work is still to be done for equity and dignity for all humans.

Tuesday, July 25
We spent the day with the UCC National Setting DC office staff: Rev. Michael Neuroth, Director of the Washington Office; Jessica Quinn, Online Communications Specialist; and Thaddaeus Elliott, Justice and Peace Policy Fellow. After discussing their personal faith journeys that called them to their work, the three prepped our youth with what to expect when meeting with their legislators and senators.

Allison Jordan from the Center for American Progress gave a presentation about the gun violence prevention advocacy. Madison Mayhew from Interfaith Power and Light discussed environmental justice. And Thaddaeus finished the discussion with information on the 2023 Farm bill. We then moved into our district groups to discuss strategy, where youth worked on their personal stories, researched statistics, and formulated their questions.

Wednesday, July 26
We were on the Hill today! All Minnesota Conference and Northern Plains youth met the staff of the representatives in each of their districts. Kevin Brown met with Rep. Angie Craig from his district.
We ended with an amazing session with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith where youth shared their stories of gun violence in and around their communities, and how important the 2023 Farm Bill is to young and marginalized farmers and those in economic need.
The mayor of DC declared a heat emergency so youth and adults were grateful to return to their hostels and ice cream sundaes!
Thursday, July 27
Our last full day was spent debriefing with the National UCC DC office about our experiences with representatives and senators. Youth noted that some legislators had great responses while others offered “political spinning.” Despite that, all participants were grateful for the opportunity to talk with their representatives and senators and experience everyday life of the Capitol.
The afternoon was spent at numerous Smithsonian museums. With a heat index over 100 degrees, it was a good way to keep everyone cool while seeing the sights. We ended the evening with a wrap-up, Vespers, and a send-off.
Friday, July 28
This morning, we packed, cleaned and ate our leftover food for breakfast, then headed to Baltimore Airport. What a fantastic experience for all! Check back for a final recap early next week.
© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023