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Cardinals Again Emphasize How Civics Matter Through D.C. Trip

Franchise teams with Close Up to send high school students on team plane

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill addresses the 260 students about to embark on the Civics Matter trip to Washington D.C. on Wednesday.
Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill addresses the 260 students about to embark on the Civics Matter trip to Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

Josiah Johnson's essay took on the topic of how America can become a more perfect union.

"(It can by) basically leveling the playing field and making sure people have equal opportunities no matter their race, gender, any of that," the Willow Canyon High School senior-to-be said.

Johnson's essay was what got him to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on Wednesday morning, one of 260 students chosen -- based on their essays -- to take part in the second annual Civics Matter Arizona trip to Washington D.C. Pairing with the Close Up Foundation, which organizes trips to the nation's capital, the Cardinals lend out the team plane to send the kids East to learn more about how the country is run.

"It's so important to give back to the community and this is a unique way we can do it," Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said.

The students on the trip represent 30 schools, 14 cities and six counties. The four-day trip will include not only the usual visits to monuments, museums and memorials but also meetings with elected officials, among other events.

The students were chosen through an essay contest for 10th and 11th grade students. There were three main topics: How young people can be involved in the community or government; The political values most important to the health of our democracy; how we has a nation can build a "more perfect union."

Johnson wrote his essay but didn't think much about being chosen until he got the call, and was flush with excitement, never having been that far East. He added he was also thinking about attending college in the area.

Sophia Avila, a recent graduate of Corona del Sol High School, called it a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." Her essay talked about cybersecurity -- her upcoming major at Arizona State -- and how it will impact the country.

"It was really about how, along with (kids), the future of technology and security will shape a lot of what the future will look like in Washington," Avila said.

Both Bidwill and Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs joined the students on the plane ride to Washington.

"There couldn't be a better time to be engaged in the issues that matter most to our state and our nation," Hobbs said, adding, "this trip will be the first step to transform our students into the future leaders that we need."

That's Bidwill's hope. Not only do the Cardinals want to continue the trips, they also want to follow the students that go through the program and see how many will get engaged in the community and government. That can happen by serving on school boards or local planning and zoning commissions, or running for elected office on the state or federal level.

Given today's political climate, finding that help is "hugely important," Bidwill said.

"The atmosphere where people get polarized on either side isn't how this country was founded," Bidwill said. "It was about finding compromise. That's why I am grateful we have so many leaders, especially Governor Hobbs, who has taken the baton from a governor (Doug Ducey) from the opposite party and carried this program forward.

"I really think it will show what a great state Arizona is and hopefully inspire other states and other communities to do similar things."

Images from the send-off ceremony for the second annual Civics Matters Arizona trip to Washington, D.C. featuring Governor Katie Hobbs, Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and local high school students

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