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Laurice Ingram said the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial were nice to see.
But when he saw Hillary Clinton walk by, that's when he truly realized he was in the nation's capital.
Ingram, a senior at Lancaster High School, spent a week in Washington, D.C., this summer participating in the Presidential Classroom, a program that provides students from across the nation with an up-close education about politics and government.
Ingram, 17, was one of two students from South Carolina to be selected to attend. There were more than 110 participants in the July 6-12 program, called Science, Technology & Public Policy. Another concurrent Presidential Classroom program was titled Global Health & the Environment.
The students formed smaller caucuses in which educators and scientists taught them about stem-cell research, nanotechnology and space colonization.
"I learned so much stuff I never even thought about," Ingram said. "It was an eye opener."
Caucus members took a side on each of the issues and had to present reports on their stances. Ingram said he didn't realize there are serious talks going on about humans colonizing beyond Earth.
The students watched the film "Kilowatt Ours," which addresses energy issues and urges people to reduce their electricity use. Ingram presented a proposal to bring about environmental change in his hometown.
He now wants to talk to his peers and children in his neighborhood about ways to save energy.
"A lot of schools are going green and it's saving a lot of money," Ingram said. "It is a big step."
Ingram and the other Presidential Classroom participants spent a day on Capital Hill, where they got to walk on the floor of the House of Representatives and visit lawmakers' offices.
Each student had to schedule a meeting with one or more of their state representatives.
Ingram met with U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-5th District, and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., for about 20 minutes each. He wasn't able to get with the state's other U.S. senator, Lindsey Graham, also a Republican
Ingram said he realized that lawmakers are truly concerned about the welfare of their constituents. He told Spratt about his participation with Lancaster High's JAG (Jobs for America's Graduates) program.
"That was interesting," Ingram said. "I had my own personal time."
And as he was strolling around the Capital building, he saw Sen. Clinton walk by. Because of Ingram's distance and the security around Clinton, he wasn't able to get close enough to speak.
However, he managed to take some quick pictures with his camera phone.
Because of the experience, Ingram said he's become more interested in politics.
"Presidential Classroom is dedicated to challenging the leaders of tomorrow to learn, understand and take action on the formidable problems that face our nation and our world," said Presidential Classroom Executive Director Elizabeth A. Sherman.
Presidential Classroom offers other focus weeks during the year, including Communications and Journalism, Law and Justice in a Democracy and Intelligence and National Security.
Policy makers, diplomats, scientists and military leaders are among some of the professionals who lead sessions that seek to refine leadership skills, foster deeper understanding of politics and enhance educational and career aspirations.
For details, visit www.presidentialclassroom.org.
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at email@example.com or (803) 283-1152