JT students visit Valley Forge, Independence Hall
BY TONY GRAF firstname.lastname@example.org December 12, 2012 8:14PM
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:25AM
JOLIET — Students from Joliet Township High School recently traveled to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, where Gen. George Washington and his Continental Army troops made a crucial encampment in the winter of 1777-78.
Soldiers faced adversity in brutal conditions that winter and emerged with a renewed vigor in the Revolutionary War.
Today, it’s a place where leaders develop and grow through an educational program.
Ten Joliet students — five from the Central Campus, five from West — took the four-day trip in November, and also visited Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The Caterpillar Foundation sponsored the students at the Spirit of America Youth Leadership Program, at Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.
The event included historical tours, lectures and workshops, designed to develop leadership skills and deepen civic knowledge, according to the Freedoms Foundation.
In addition to sightseeing at Valley Forge, the students learned about the U.S. Constitution.
“We had two amazing professors come in and teach us about politics and how the Constitution actually works in the government today,” said Matt Ellis, a junior at Joliet Central.
Those professors were Graham Lee, professor of political science at St. Joseph’s University, and Bruce Murphy, professor of civil rights at Lafayette College.
The students then examined mock amendments to the Constitution, split into groups, and discussed the merit of the amendments.
“Later that evening, we got together again and talked about it in a group, in a massive full-on debate to see, if these were real, if we would actually put them into the Constitution as an actual amendment,” Ellis said.
The students also viewed the Medal of Honor Grove, dedicated to recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest award for valor.
The students toured historic Philadelphia and saw the Liberty Bell, the gravesite of Benjamin Franklin, and the house where Betsy Ross is said to have sewn the first American flag.
They also ate delicious Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.
“Philadelphia — I’ve never been to a city like that,” said Jeremy Kollross, a junior at Central. “Walking by everything, it was very historical, very old. A lot of brick roads. There were American flags everywhere. There wasn’t a street where you couldn’t go down and see some sort of patriotism.”
Christopher Norwood, a junior at Central, saw the famous “rising sun” chair used by Washington at the Constitutional Convention. Franklin looked at the chair — with the design of a sun on it — and found it difficult to distinguish whether the sun was rising or setting.
“After everything was said and done, he knew that sun was rising for many generations to come,” Norwood said. “I thought it was really great to be able to see that chair.”
Laurie Markatos, a history and advanced placement teacher at Joliet Central, accompanied the students on the trip. Whenever she recognized a historic location, she could not help but draw on her personal knowledge and give lessons to students.
“Overall, I thought the trip was a really great experience for the kids,” Markatos said. “The best part about it for me was watching the awe on the faces of the kids as we were going through.”
“It was a great way for the kids to be exposed to this experience, and to hopefully make connections to our curriculum. It was another opportunity to bring what we’re teaching to life,” said Alberto Filipponi, curriculum director.
Carol Collins, district project director, is grateful and proud that Caterpillar sponsored the students.