Close Up’s Program Instructors (PIs) are the lifeblood of our programs, and ensure that your students have a safe, rewarding and fun experience! Our PIs are not just contracted tour guides – they are college-educated instructors who are carefully selected for our programs and receive over 120 hours of training with our curriculum and methodology prior to working with students. Additionally, all PIs are trained in First Aid, CPR and have passed a criminal background check as part of Close Up’s hiring process. Our dynamic and engaging instructors come from some of the nation’s top universities as well as from distinguished programs such as the Peace Corps, Semester at Sea, and AmeriCorps. All Program Instructors are supported by Curriculum staff members and receive additional professional development every week in an effort to keep our curriculum relevant to current events, as well as to ensure our practice of providing cutting-edge experiential education.

Program Leaders

Katie Chandler: St. Catherine’s University, BA-French & History; Jagiellonian University, MA-European Studies

Hometown: Platteville, WI

“The things I love best about Close Up are the diversity of students we work with and that all our instructors share a genuine passion for civic education.”



Jared Conn: Otterbein University, BA Political Science

Hometown: Wintersville, OH

“I enjoy helping students think about and express their own viewpoints about government and what it means to be an active citizen in the US.”

Mark Firmin: Tulane University, BA Political Science: International Relations; BS Psychology

Hometown: Prairieville, LA

“Close Up offers unrivaled programs in growing students' ability to recognize themselves as difference makers. Participants get to explore their political identity and practice both putting forward their ideas and listening to others, all in a civil manner.”

Whitney Hughes: University of Florida, BA Political Science

Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL

“The most exciting part of being a program instructor is getting to hear the conversations amongst students as they challenge one another to speak up and share their opinions.”

Melissa Morgan: George Washington University, BA Geographic Information Systems and American Studies

Hometown: Garden Grove, CA

“It’s so exciting to meet new students and help teach them about government and civic engagement, all while showing them around the city that I love!”

Senior Program Instructors

Becca Brehm: Virginia Commonwealth University, BA Political Science

Hometown: Falls Church, VA

“The most exciting thing about using DC as a living classroom is allowing students to see real historical sites, and helping them to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world."



Sasha Chernyak: Bay Path University, BA Liberal Studies

Hometown: Portland, ME

“I enjoy getting students to talk about current events and I love to learn new things from them.”

Michael Covin: Rutgers University, BA Political Science and History

Hometown: Clifton, NJ

“The most exciting part of being a Close Up instructor is getting to work with different students from around the country and utilizing different learning environments in DC as a classroom to further expand ways to inform, inspire, and empower students.”

Daniel Hastings: Hobart and William Smith Colleges, BA History

Hometown: Geneva, NY

“I love working at Close Up because it uses Washington DC as a classroom, which allows for hands-on learning.”

Michael Rasor: University of Arizona, BA History and French Language and Literature

Hometown: Mesa, AZ

“Close Up allows for students to shape their political voice and values alongside a diverse set of individuals from every corner of the nation, in a truly unique and vibrant setting. Being a program instructor teaches me something every week, as I see students empower each other and stand up for themselves and their communities.”

Brady Watson: State University of New York, BS Environmental Policy, Planning, and Law, MS Environmental and Outdoor Education

Hometown: Croning, NY

“Washington, DC is the perfect social studies classroom because there is an intersection of local, state, and national governments in a concentrated area.”

Meadow Wiggington: James Madison University, BA Political Science and Philosophy

Hometown: Falls Church, VA

“The Close Up Foundation offers immensely impactful programs for students all over the U.S. and I love getting to lead diverse workshops of students who are committed to being open, brave, and honest about their political opinions. I get the privilege of learning alongside my students every single week and I become more excited for the future of this country because of how empowered these students leave at the end of the program week.”

Program Instructors

Jerome Allen: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, BA Dramatic Arts and Environmental Studies

Hometown: Greenville, NC

“I’m eager to work as a Close Up instructor, not only to teach what I know about politics in DC, but also to learn from students how their background and education shapes their experience.”



Junee Aranico: University of Maryland-College Park, BA Criminology and Criminal Justice

Hometown: Largo, MD

“Close Up’s mission to inspire, inform, and empower young students is critical in creating a more tolerant and educated generation of citizens, who will be unafraid to talk about what they believe in.”

Mitchell Baker: Drew University, BA English

Hometown: Bethesda, MD

“At Close Up, our mission to increase political efficacy in youth is important because they are our future senators, representatives, and other political figures! I’m excited to show students a world class city and use the plethora of history that’s contained within.”

Myles Blackmon: Northeastern University, BS Economics

Hometown: Redwood City, CA

“It's so important for young people to be aware and involved in our democracy as they are the ones who will inherit it one day. Close Up is wonderful because students interact with the different people and places in DC to really experience democracy first-hand."

Nubia Briones: St. Edward’s University, BA Psychology

Hometown: San Benito, TX

“One of the most exciting parts of being a Close Up instructor is meeting students from all over the US and learning how they intend on being active and responsible participants in their democracy. Even before getting to DC students have an idea of what is important to them, and using the nation’s capital as a classroom clarifies their goals. Getting to see this is so inspiring!"

Jacob Israel Chilton: American River College, AA Jazz Studies; University of California – Davis, BA English; Johns Hopkins University, MA English

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

“Washington, DC, is rich with history, symbols, power, and contradiction–all ideal objects of examination and analysis. I couldn’t ask for a better classroom to teach in.”

Tim Cleasby: Guilford College, BA Political Science

Hometown: Washington, DC

“The most exciting part of being a Close Up program instructor is the ability to interact with students from diverse backgrounds who are passionate about political issues. It’s rewarding to play a role in inspiring them to be civically engaged adults.”

Devon Constable: Towson University, BA English, Minors in Marketing and Museum Studies

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

“I am excited to work at Close Up because I think it’s important to get young people out of a traditional classroom setting. Using Washington, DC, as the interactive classroom, students become excited to participate in the democratic process.”

Jeffrey Croyts: Ohio University, BA Political Science

Hometown: Warren, OH

“The most exciting part of being a Close Up instructor is learning about students’ life experiences, and showing them how to relate that to the nation’s politics, culture, and history.”

James Dennehy: Christopher Newport University, BA Political Science

Hometown: Ashland, VA

“The most exciting part about being a Close Up instructor is connecting students from different backgrounds, and facilitating productive policy discussions in the heart of where these national debates occur.”

Alex Escobar: Loyola Marymount University, BBA with emphasis in Entrepreneurship

Hometown: Long Beach, CA

“I love working at Close Up because their programs gives students and instructors a unique opportunity to meet other people from diverse backgrounds, respectfully engage in challenging discussions, and arrive at their own conclusions freely.”

Jeff Evans: Bethany College, BA with Distinction

Hometown: Long Beach, CA

“In Washington, history permeates the buildings and streets we stride through, but we also interact with the ongoing and dynamic. At Close Up, we get to help students learn how these historical events have had world-wide ramifications, as they get to see why their opinions matter, and how they can influence the present and future.”

Sam Fahsel: Marquette University, BA History

Hometown: Lake Mills, WI

“Engaging our students in the richness of history in DC is the most exciting part about working with Close Up.”

Katherine Garvey: Montana State University, BA Global Studies

Hometown: St. Paul, MN

“What inspires me about Close Up is seeing students participating in government, not just in theory, but also in practice.”

Benjamin Grossman: University of Colorado-Boulder, BA International Relations, Minor - Peace and Conflict Studies

Hometown: Morrison, CO

“I’m enthusiastic about working at Close Up because it brings in students from across the country, and opens them up to the possibilities, as well as the challenges, of our democracy.”

Cassie Hill: University of California-San Diego, BA Communications

Hometown: Alameda, CA

“The greatest thing about being a Close Up instructor is seeing students begin to feel empowered to develop and voice their opinions on the important issues facing their generation.”

Ian Hendrie: Mount St. Mary’s University, BA Political Science, Minor in Legal Studies

Hometown: Potomac, MD

“The greatest thing about being a Close Up instructor is seeing students begin to feel empowered to develop and voice their opinions on the important issues facing their generation.”

Zainab Imbabi: University of Mary Washington, BS Economics and Political Science

Hometown: Greensburg, PA

“The best thing about being an instructor at Close Up is using DC as a classroom. The sheer abundance of things to see and do will stimulate critical thinking and energize students throughout the day.”

Selina James: California University of Pennsylvania, BA Political Science

Hometown: Born in Khartoum, Sudan: Raised in Woodbridge, Virginia.

“The most exciting thing about using DC as a classroom is facilitating discussions at monuments, museums, and neighborhoods because it provides real life context to current issues. Students get the benefits of site seeing important places while being educated on policy and history.”

Dwayne Jeffrey: State University of New York at Geneseo, BA International Relations

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY (by way of Georgetown, Guyana)

“Close Up gives me the chance to interact with a soon-to-be voting body of citizens! I’m excited to get to ignite their political efficacy and learn about the different issues they are passionate about.”

Garrett Jones: Michigan State University, BA Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy

Hometown: Lake Mary, FL

“The mission of Close Up has transcended and affected multiple generations of students. It continues to be paramount and timely today. It is an honor to be trusted to instruct students in a democratic classroom because the values of civility, empowerment, and leadership learned during this program will stay with these students as they grow into impactful citizens in their communities.”

Kyle Jones: The Catholic University of America, BA Political Science

Hometown: Youngstown, OH

“Democracies offer innumerable benefits to young people. By supporting their political passions, we are creating a better tomorrow for America.”

George Kronlage: University of Virginia, BA History and Foreign Affairs

Hometown: Fairfax, VA

“Close Up’s mission is important because democracies rely on an active and informed citizenry. By informing, inspiring and empowering American youth to be those active citizens for life, Close Up can supplement the vital role of public education in fostering positive citizenship.”

Kateri Kuhn: The Catholic University of America, BA Drama and History

Hometown: Wauwatosa, WI

“I’m super excited to use DC as a classroom because it encompasses both our nation’s past and present, as it continues to move forward.”

Nathan Lavender: University of Georgia, BA in Political Science

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

“I’m excited about working at Close Up because it gives me a chance to work interactively with people from all over the country. Close Up’s mission is important because too many people take our democracy for granted. These programs can give a generation of young people the resources they need to change the country.”

Patrick Lowman: San Diego State University, BA Political Science, Public Law Certificate, and History Minor

Hometown: Sacramento, CA

“The most exciting thing about using Washington, DC, as a classroom is showing students the real people that have enacted real change through citizen action. Seeing the students light up as they visit the magnificent structures is a bonus!”

Alexis Maxfield: University of Colorado-Boulder, BA Art History and Italian; Flinders University, M.Ed. Cognitive Psychology for Educational Practice

Hometown: Centennial, CO

“What I like most about Close Up is the chance to teach students about ideas that are always being reinforced and/or challenged by current events. In addition, I love non-traditional learning spaces, and I have an appreciation for teaching in the monumental places we discuss.”

Bridgit McKay: California State University, Chico, BA Political Science and International Relations

Hometown: Sacramento, CA

“The most exciting part of being a Close Up instructor is seeing students form their own opinions and ideas of what change they want to see in their communities and this country, thus becoming active participants in our democracy."

Emily Meuers: American University, BA Anthropology

Hometown: Naples, FL

“Though it is easy to feel tense by the politics in Washington, I’m always eager to show young activists that they already have the power to make the world a better place. Through Close Up, they learn how to form their own opinions about controversial issues, and be part of a collaborative community of passionate people.”

Isabel Miller: Amherst College, BA History

Hometown: Thurmont, MD

“Young people are the foundation for our future. It is important to provide students with the necessary tools and knowledge as they grow to become leaders and change makers. Close Up's programs help students to achieve this goal by providing them with experiences in citizenship and showing them how to be active and engaged citizens.”

Kelsey Morgan: Framingham State University, BA History and English

Hometown: Southborough, MA

“Helping students make connections between their studies and the real world is the best part of being an instructor. With the help of various monuments, museums, and group workshops Close Up allows students to challenge themselves and inspires them to participate in our democracy. ”

Cindy Nguyen: University of Wisconsin-Madison, BS Botany and Political Science

Hometown: Fairfax, VA

“The best part of being an instructor at Close Up is being able to inspire and understand the thoughts and opinions of our future leaders.”

Albertus Rowan: Gettysburg College, BA Philosophy

Hometown: Rockville, MD

“The most exciting thing about being a Close Up instructor is being able to help students think through the most challenging political issues facing the nation today.”

Ashley Rubi: University of Virginia, BA Anthropology and Linguistics

Hometown: Chesterfield, VA

“The most exciting thing about using DC as a classroom is being able to punctuate lessons with monument visits and discussions with members of Congress. Visiting museums that solidify learning and allow students to better retain the information is an important part of being a responsible citizen of a democracy.”

Camila Salvador: McGill University, BA Latin American Studies and World History

Hometown: Washington, DC

“Washington, DC, is one of the most powerful cities in the world, but more than that it is a place where a vibrant culture and people exist and flourish. I’m excited to work with young people on figuring about how they feel and think about increasingly complicated, and often overwhelming, political issues.”

Alexa Sanchez: Florida International University, BA International Relations

Hometown: West Palm Beach, FL

“At Close Up, I’m a part of a team where everyone whole-heartedly believes in the mission of informing, inspiring and empowering the youth. A thriving democracy requires an informed and active population, and using DC as a classroom is an incredible way to show students just how much their voices matter.”

Jessica Shainker: Rhodes College, BA Public History

Hometown: Sandy Springs, GA

“What I like most about Close Up is its uniqueness. Its programs allow students to come together for respectful, productive debate that is focused, not on partisanship, but on policy itself.”

Isaac Shorser: American University, BA Justice and Law with Criminology concentration; MS Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy

Hometown: River Forest, IL

“I am passionate about empowering kids to be more politically involved through Close Up’s programs. It is never too early to become more engaged in our political system, and I am very fortunate to inspire young people to increase their political efficacy.”

Jessica Shuler: Hillsdale College, BA History

Hometown: Cadillac, WI

“Being part of Close Up will allow me to show students the incredibly beautiful, powerful, and historically-rich Washington, DC, I’m excited to hear the different perspectives of students all across the nation.”

Sarah Strum: The College of Wooster, BA International Relations

Hometown: Washington, DC and Potomac, MD

“I enjoy being an instructor at Close Up because I get to engage students on how to be active participants in their country’s democracy. Students can see their textbooks come to life as they walk through DC, and observe the things they’ve learned in action.”

Shaina Thomas: University of Oklahoma, BA African/African American Studies, MEd Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum

Hometown: Tulsa, OK

“The most exciting thing about using Washington, DC, as a classroom is that it provides students with experiential learning opportunities beyond a traditional classroom setting. These direct experiences bring civic education to life!”

Ben Turner: University of South Carolina, BA Journalism

Hometown: South Bend, IN

“The most exciting part of being a Close Up instructor is helping students discover and develop their role in our system of government.”

Olivia Vásquez: Berry College, BA Spanish and Economics

Hometown: Augusta, GA

“As a Close Up instructor, I thoroughly enjoy getting to learn all of the different perspectives and experiences from students all over the country. Showing students that the city is alive, not just with government or politics, but with a rich culture and history that shaped American values, is by far the greatest part of the job.”

Shaanan Wade: Hampden-Sydney College, BA in Economics; Wake Forest University, MS Management

Hometown: Chesapeake, VA

“Washington, DC, is one of the most important cities in the country. Not only is it our nation's capital but it is a living museum and testament to our ever-evolving nation. On Close Up, I’m able to help students become more engaged citizens by teaching them about this incredible city.”

Jalyn Wheatley: University of Arizona, BA History and Africana Studies, MA History

Hometown: Tucson, AZ

“The best part about working with Close Up will be teaching students how to apply what they learn here to create change in their home communities.”

Joe Winn: James Madison University, BA Political Science

Hometown: Winchester, VA

“Close Up's mission forms the foundation that makes great citizens and future leaders.”

Teacher Program Specialists

Michael Kofi Boateng: Brigham Young University (Hawaii), BA-Political Science; Norwich University, MA-Diplomacy

Hometown: Koforidua, Ghana

“My favorite part of Close Up is the unique non-partisan approach to teaching.”




John Cheeseman: George Mason University, BA History

Hometown: Alexandria, VA

“The best part of being a TPS is working with teachers from all across the country and overseas, imparting knowledge of our history and government, and learning from them in return.”

Olivia Dumboski: University of Arkansas, BA International Relations, Minors- European Studies and Political Science

Hometown: Little Rock, AR

“As a former educator, I enjoy working with Close Up teachers from all over the country as they continue to enrich their dedication to civic education in the classroom.”

Ian Fried: The College of Wooster (OH), BA Political Science; The Johns Hopkins University, MA Political Science

Hometown: Highland Park, IL

“It is so rewarding to engage Close Up teachers in political and history discussions as we use the sights and sounds of Washington as our classroom.”

Joe Geraghty: Le Moyne College, BA Religious Studies

Hometown: Yorktown Heights, NY

“I love working at Close Up because I believe that our mission to inform, inspire, and empower the youth of America is vitally important for the future of our great country.”

Nora Hoffman-White: Fordham University, BA History

Hometown: Silver Spring, MD

“I love this city and want to show teachers and students all the resources here.”


"The great thing about Close Up is that every day is exciting! I constantly learn new things from my students and colleagues and I work with people who share the same passion for our democracy that I do!"

   – Madison K., Instructor
Educating for democracy since 1971