Aboard team plane, essay winners ready for nation's capitalDarren Urban
Michael Bidwill spent both his high school days and his law school days in Washington, D.C., and grew a great appreciation for the nation's capital.
So for the Cardinals owner to be a part of Wednesday's trip for 241 high school students from around the state of Arizona -- flying aboard the team plane -- brought frequent smiles to his face.
"I think it's one of the most powerful moments of a young person's life the first time they go to D.C.," Bidwill said.
The students on the trip were picked after submitting a 500-word essay, either about community and civic involvement, young people who have made a difference, or how to build "a more perfect union." A collaboration by the Cardinals and State Farm, the contest branched out from efforts by Governor Doug Ducey to prioritize the teaching of American civics in the classroom. Chicanos Por La Causa, APS, Raza Development Fund, and the Greater Phoenix Leadership also provided financial support.
All the students are from Title 1 schools from around the state. Title 1 is federally-funded program to make sure all children have "a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education."
While in Washington, the students will visits with elected officials, take in the historical sites of the area and get some behind-the-scenes looks at how government works.
"I have been interested into going into the government for work and I feel like if I am going to go into the government, I need to know how civics and our government works," said Mia Vizzerra, who will be a freshman at University High in Phoenix in the fall. "I feel like the history and government part of school is overlooked a lot. That's why I think this is so great for kids that wouldn't get the chance to do this."
The students, 30 chaperones and some Cardinals staff -- including Bidwill -- climbed on the plane after a boarding process that was anything but normal.
As the kids checked in they were greeted by the Cardinals' mascot, cheerleaders and a special appearance by wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who took photos and signed autographs. Once bussed to the tarmac, Bidwill and Ducey delivered a few remarks alongside Cardinals rookies who attended.
"I think this is awesome," Hopkins said. "Something like this is life-changing. To go somewhere and do something they have interest in, I don't think a summer trip could be much better. I think this is something that should happen every year, and happen in other cities as well."
In Washington, the group will work with Close Up, a company with a long tradition of hosting students on D.C. trips. The hope is that friends and memories are made, but also that it inspires some as they eventually become the leaders of tomorrow.
"This is part of our commitment to social justice," Bidwill said. "We want to teach the next generation of young leaders how to engage in civil discourse, how they can affect change, how they can get involved in their own communities. We wanted to give them a special experience."