Government in Action: Students’ Learning Journey to Washington, D.C.

On April 20, the Mount Madonna School (MMS) junior class, along with their teachers, traveled to Washington, D.C. for a week-long learning journey. Their trip includes tours and interviews with an array of interesting individuals. The junior class is keeping a blog of reflections about their experiences; you can follow their blog at

This annual learning journey for high school students is part of the MMS Government in Action program started in 1989 by Sadanand Ward Mailliard. Over the years, MMS students have been fortunate to meet and interview some of our nation’s finest public servants. The Washington, D.C. learning journey is an integral part of the two-year Values in World Thought class at Mount Madonna School for high school juniors and seniors.

This unique trip to Washington, D.C. provides MMS juniors with a direct personal experience of those who devote their lives to public service, while high school seniors engage with an international learning journey to India.

“We are motivated by a sincere desire to inquire into the values and experiences of those who serve our nation in all branches of government and beyond,” commented Values in World Thought teacher and Director of Upper School Shannon Kelly (’92), “ We interview individuals who are committed to improving the quality of life in our nation and around the world, and who have the values and character that we wish to instill in our students.”

Earlier this week the students participated in an African American History Tour and visited the Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense.

“Today, my classmates and I went on the African American History Tour.” Said eleventh grader Emilia Lord. “Our tour guide, Dré, said it well: ‘Learning history is like looking through a prism; how you see it depends on which way you look through it.’ We visited memorials and monuments that represent both beautiful and admittedly ugly aspects of American history. Many of the memorials and monuments have a history and a meaning that lie beneath what the eye can see, and learning about them offers an enlightening view of American history.”

Classmate Manumailagi Hunnicutt was inspired by the class’ visit to the Pentagon and hearing from their tour guide, Officer Jackson, about his personal experience in law enforcement and the Army.

“Walking around the Pentagon and seeing all of the personnel in their uniforms was really cool, but what I most loved about the trip is the fact that it reinstated my confidence in pursuing a career in law enforcement,” said Hunnicutt. “Recently, I have been swamped with prepping for college and narrowing down the possibilities of what I want to do in the future. I had started to doubt if my aspirations to be in law enforcement, whether as a crime scene investigator or as an FBI agent, is even possible, or if I am up for the challenge. However, what Officer Jackson had to say gave me the confidence to think that a career in law enforcement is something I can actually have.”

The educational growth and positive character development aspects of learning and travel beyond the classroom’s walls cannot be understated.

“In a time of division, the Government in Action program provides our students the opportunity to actively listen with open minds and hearts,” said Kelly. “It is our belief that we can positively impact the world by engaging in conversations of meaning, being curious, and being open to learning from people with different perspectives and lived experiences.


Nestled among the redwoods on 380 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The program, accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.