- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

Hundreds of high school students from around the country are coming to Washington this week to visit embassies, attend a session of Congress and debate current issues.
It's all part of Presidential Classroom, an Alexandria-based nonprofit group that has been educating youths about government for 35 years. Now the group is fulfilling another role answering President Bush's civic service challenge.
Mr. Bush challenged citizens in September to dedicate two years to civic service. He established the USA Freedom Corps and encouraged everyone to commit 4,000 hours to volunteer work.
Educators who volunteer to teach at Presidential Classroom will receive credit for 100 hours of service.
Presidential Classroom's mission is to prepare the United States' and the world's best and brightest high school students for responsible citizenship. Only juniors and seniors who maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average are eligible to attend the program.
During the program, which begins Saturday, students will attend seminars on the floor of the House of Representatives, a CIA briefing and seminars at the State Department. They also will visit the White House, Capitol Hill and embassies.
The majority of volunteers at Presidential Classroom are mid- and upper-level federal and military personnel.
"The real benefit to this is that the students get to see the public policy being made. They get to have a face put on the people who make the laws and make the decisions," said Jinger King, dean and chief operating officer of Presidential Classroom.
The group will hold 15 different seven-day programs this year. Between 250 and 500 students are expected to attend each session. Each session will look at different issues, including national security and global business. An international program to be held in late summer will be called the Future World Leader Summit. Kenneth W. Starr is slated as keynote speaker for a course to study law and justice.
"We did not change the program at all, because we felt it fit so well" with the president's civic service challenge, Mrs. King said.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency responsible for advising the president in matters of personnel administration, agreed that Presidential Classroom was an ideal place for government workers to earn service hours. OPM specifically mentioned the program in a letter that encouraged federal government employees to meet Mr. Bush's civic challenge.
"The 2003 Presidential Classroom Volunteer Instructors Program provides federal workers an excellent opportunity to meet this goal," the letter says. OPM "encourages federal employees to participate in teaching our young citizens about the realities and benefits of government service."
The group's president, former Missouri Congressman Jack W. Buechner, said the program fulfills Mr. Bush's initiative in two ways. First, it is a place where adults can serve the younger generation. Second, it teaches students to volunteer in the future.
About 100,000 students have passed through the program, which was established under President Kennedy as a way to give high school students a glimpse of government in action.

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