By Aisha Jones

11th Grade, Iowa City West High School

Names and shadow on wallWhile in DC, seeing all of the soldiers’ names who have passed away serving our country on the African American Civil War Monument and the Vietnam War Memorial was depressing.  I would never have thought about how people die each day from helping US citizens stay safe.  From now on, I will thank veterans and active duty soldiers for helping to keep the US safe and for putting their lives at risk for us.

At the Holocaust Museum, I learned the young girls were forced into Hitler’s youth program to prepare them for womanhood and parenthood.  Now that we are all free women, we should value what we have, cherish and take care of our belongings.  After going through four floors all about the Holocaust, I thought about how much power one person can have and how we the people should never let society get back that way.

AishaI am blessed to have had the chance to get to see these memorials and museums, the White House, the US Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial in person.  I enjoyed visiting the beautiful, busy District and am resolved to stay active in my community.

I am thankful for being a part of FasTrac and being able to receive opportunities like this.  I am looking forward to the future!

Learning with/from Youth

KimBy Kim Hanrahan, LMSW

Iowa City Human Rights Commissioner

I have spent the last four days traveling to Washington, DC, for President Obama’s inauguration events.  I visited memorials, dined at the (famous) Ben’s Chili Bowl, visited the African American Civil War Museum and the Holocaust Museum, walked almost six miles on Inauguration Day, and was warmly welcomed into the home of an extremely nice and fascinating woman.

And I did all of this with a group of twenty-six teenagers, all participants of the FasTrac program.

I had more fun than I would have ever imagined. 

The teens were well behaved and so much fund to be with.  Chaperons established high expectation of being respectful, following the rules, and listening to adults—and the teens complied.  Even in challenging situations (riding the busy DSCN1325Metro, walking through crowds of hundreds of thousands of people), the trip went very well without consequence.

I had a great time meeting and talking with the youth and getting to know their unique personalities.  We laughed a lot, but I also saw many of them seriously viewing the monuments and museums, contemplating the meanings and information.  It was great to see them learning and enjoying each other.

I would invite anyone to experience spending time with FasTrac teens and understanding how much they have to offer to all of us and to their community.

Horrors of the Holocaust

Valisia J.

12th Grade, Iowa City West High School

Coming on this trip, I didn’t know what to expect.  I thought we were just coming to see President Obama, but we also got to take the subway and go to Trinity University to do service work, which was fun. I also went to the Holocaust Museum, which made a lasting impression.

Holocaust museumAt the Museum, I learned how people were treated so badly.  They had to get their heads shaved and the way they treated kids was a little too much for me.   I walked in happy but I walked out sad and uneasy.  It was my first time being in that Museum and I just felt like it was a great thing to experience, but I was so sad going through.

A man who works in the Museum said it is not meant to make people feel bad but to make us want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  ThinkHe said we should use this experience to appreciate the happiness of life.  That helped me out because by the end of the Museum I really did feel sad and just hearing from that man explained a lot to me.  I also had a chaperon with me who walked me through the Museum.  She knew more than I did and helped me to understand some things.

DSCN1318I feel like the adults on the trip are just great.  You can tell they really care for us and are there if we need them.  At that time at the Holocaust Museum, I needed an adult and she was there for me.  I am happy and grateful that I got to come on this trip and get to see all the museums.

Honoring MLK

It was exciting to be on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, right where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech!


Honored to Spend Time with Our Youth

QuishiaBy RaQuishia Harrington

Parent and Chaperon

As a chaperon, I was very excited about the opportunity to accompany 20+ youth to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  This trip would be something they would be able to talk about for as long as they live.

The drive to DC on Friday was long, but the kids in my van were well behaved and fun.  There was a lot of laughter, with stories and jokes pretty much all the way there.

Saturday, we traveled into town for the day of service.  It was very empowering to knowing that we were able to give back and help those in need.  We went to Trinity Washington University and helped sort food that would be distributed among several food pantries.  The choir that performed was awesome.  Afterward, we visited the African American Civil War Museum.

The best part of the day was the MLK memorial.  What a site to see!  I was moved by this memorial because of Dr. King’s work and what our country still has to work toward.

There were so many moments as I reflect on our trip that I would like to share!  However, in some ways, it was an experience that you would have to experience yourself to understand how life changing it was.  (You should consider coming on a future FasTrac cultural tour!)

Overall, I enjoyed spending time with the youth and answering their questions and sharing in all the hype and excitement of seeing the White House and Capitol.  The young participants stayed together, respected their chaperons, and kept up a great attitude throughout.  Seldom did they complain when plans had to change and schedules got adjusted.  Inauguration Day didn’t go exactly as planned, and there we SO many people!  The many photo ops were fun, though, as people from all over the world wanted their picture taken with the group from Iowa.

The kids represented Iowa and the FasTrac program extremely well!

Riding the Subway

Washington, DC’s underground subway system, called the Metro, is world famous.  It is one of the safest places in DC, and one of the cleanest subway systems in the world.  It was the highlight of some of the kids’ trip (and the most stressful experience for some of the chaperons!):

IMG_2455Jake Evans

Southeast Junior High School

I liked when we were at Union Station because it was my first time going on a subway.  It was underground, and it was a pretty fast train.

DSCN1365By Katara

Iowa City City High School

On Saturday, I learned how to ride a subway.  I never knew how to ride one until yesterday.

DSCN1364Weijia Sun

11th Grade, Iowa City West High School

My favorite part was the subway.  I felt like I was back in China!  I had thought I would never see a subway train again.  Riding the Metro made me feel very happy.

I was there!

Kamil Hodges
12th Grade, Iowa City West High School

Monday, January 21 … the day we have all been waiting for! We started our morning off at 6 am, loading the vans to head to Washington, DC, from our hotel in Virginia. We walked 2 1/2 miles to the Inauguration.  That was one LONG walk.

The most exciting part about the walk was as we got closer we started to see crowds of people form to come together for the ceremony.











Standing in the park, watching the Inauguration from the projection screen with thousands of people was very inspiring.


Hearing President Obama’s speech touched and inspired me in many different ways.


I had a great time visiting Washington, DC.  It was a powerful experience and I can’t wait for the next trip to see what new lessons are in store for me!

And we’re off….

We walked two and a half miles to the entry point on the mall for the inauguration ceremony!



Thank you to our host!

DSCN3641By Circe Stumbo

FasTrac Advisory Board Member

We all send a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to our host, Deoria J. Davis, for opening up her home to us that cold morning, January 21!  We drove into town early on inauguration day to beat the traffic.  The temperature was below freezing, so we would have been miserable if we had waited on the mall for four hours until the inauguration.  In the spirit of service, Deoria invited us to stay in her home until it was time for the walk to the mall for the swearing-in ceremony.  We even found parking spots right on the street in front of her house!

Being able to stay with Deoria and her family meant the kids could get another two hours of sleep before the long day, and we all were able to stay warm and grab a bite to eat in the comfort of home.

I also had the privilege of sharing my old neighborhood with everyone on the trip.  As we embarked on our journey downtown, we stopped by the playground that the neighborhood had renovated just a decade ago.



I was so proud for Deoria to meet the youth and adults from FasTrac, just as I was proud for them to meet Deoria!

Remembering the Fallen

Name on wallBy Doug Koosmann

When I decided I could go to DC and learned we would get to visit the monuments, I knew right away that I wanted to go to the Vietnam War Memorial.

My dad’s first cousin is on the wall.

Rubbing the nameAfter my dad was drafted, he went to boot camp and then was working at an army base in Indiana as a nurse.  He had about 11 months left on his contract when he got his orders for Vietnam.  When you got your orders to go, you were given a 30-day leave to go home and say your good-byes.  It was during that 30-day leave that my dad learned his cousin, John Zager, was killed.  Dad went to Johnny’s funeral just two weeks before he shipped off.

My dad has influenced my life so much and what I want to do, which is to go into the military and be a helicopter pilot.  For me to be able to experience the wall and see how Johnny and the others are honored—and then to be able to bring my experience back and give it to my dad—means so much to me.  I am taking the rubbing home as a small, small way to honor both Johnny and my dad.


Doug Koosmann, a guest of one of our chaperones, lives in Tipton, Iowa.