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Hamilton: Seeing Washington, ;Close-Up'

It was my first time flying alone, and I was about to depart out of Rhode Island and go to Washington, D.C., for the first time. I had my itinerary and I had the instructions of what to do when I got there. I had some nerves and doubts in my mind, but I was mostly excited.

My adventures in Washington certainly did not disappoint.

My experience with the Close-Up American Indian Youth Summit, in conjunction with the United South and Eastern Tribes Impact Week, was unforgettable. From the time I arrived at USET, I was immersed in a setting filled with history and culture. The first night, I attended workshops and had the honor of listening to USET President Brian Patterson talk about the importance of the program.

The next morning, we worked within our tribes and proposed ideas that we considered important to us as young people. Together, we members of the Mohegan Tribe were able to devise a plan that encouraged all young tribal members to get involved.

We discussed ways to ensure tribal youth were being heard within the tribal community, such as creating a Web site that posted current events specific to young people, having our own youth council, and getting younger tribal members involved by writing articles for the Wuskuso. Our hope is to keep all tribal youth informed so that we will one day have a successful and cultural future.

One event that we took part in during Close-Up was a night when each of the tribes organized a display that portrayed their important cultural symbols, clothing, language and a brief description of how their tribal governments were run. Each display was enriched in unique historical symbols and beautiful items that held a specific significance to each tribe.

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This night was probably one of the highlights for me because I liked learning about the different cultures as well as the systems of government that were specific to each tribe.

Another highlight was visiting the Pushmataha House, a center of tribal diplomacy and governmental affairs in the nation;s capital. This was extremely exciting because we were given the opportunity to listen to members of the Connecticut congressional delegation speak to us about their personal experiences working as politicians. Each of them took an interest in speaking to us about ways we can become influential adults and took questions regarding various interests unique to each one of the students involved in the program.

The trip was an experience which opened up the world and exposed the many opportunities that await me in the future. My knowledge of both the governments of the United States and the Mohegan Tribe was enhanced through the many workshops that I attended during my stay. I also had the privilege of learning about many other tribal governments throughout the United States.

My new discoveries during the Close-Up week were very beneficial to my future. My newly affirmed knowledge has helped me grow as a citizen, student, and a Mohegan tribal member. The Close-Up program is an extremely beneficial and informative program that all tribal youth should experience.

Mollie Hamilton, a junior at East Greenwich High School in East Greenwich, R.I., was one of 19 Mohegan students to attend the Close-Up Foundation's American Indian Youth Summit, held in Washington, D.C., Feb. 10 - 16.