Eight Rifle High School students recently saw first-hand how Colorado state government is designed to work through the Colorado Close Up program.
Led by government and economics teacher Jonathan Rice, the students witnessed how the state Legislature functions, met with state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey, and sat in the seats used by Colorado's Supreme Court justices to oversee a mock trial.
"It was a neat experience to see how the Capital works," senior Adam Rice told Rifle City Council at its March 20 meeting.
"Part of the benefit of the Colorado Close Up program is having the chance for a lot of people at the Capital to talk to the students," said his father, Jonathan Rice, also a city councilman. "Sen. Baumgardner came out of the Senate chambers to the lobby to talk to the students and he seemed to be pretty frustrated at whatever they had just heard."
Students get to meet with people involved in state government including interns, department directors, legislators, members of the press, lobbyists, etc., Jonathan Rice said. They interact with students from across the state and discuss controversial issues. They visit government facilities, including the capitol and supreme court building.
"We also had breakfast with Sen. Baumgardner, which gave us the opportunity to talk with him for about an hour," he added.
The program has been around in Colorado for about 40 years and is overseen by the Spaulding Leadership Institute. Its purpose is to educate students about Colorado state government and to encourage involvement.
Jonathan Rice said he has taken Rifle students to Denver through the Colorado Close Up program since 2006.
Each student had to raise $100 for the three-day trip in late February, Jonathan Rice said. But most of the funding came through other sources, including the Rifle Community Foundation, which the city contributes to, he added.
The eight Rifle High School students who participated were Keimi Payan, Barbara Andrade, Kaitlyn Giard, Eli Boone, Luis Arballo, Kellan Johnson, Anthony Valdez and Adam Rice.