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

Kiara Battle: Bennett College for Women, BA Visual and Performing Arts

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

“The best part of working at Close Up is getting to meet with students from all over the country as they discover Washington DC and all it has to offer.”



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.”

Julianne Forzano: West Virginia University, BA-Secondary Social Studies Education

Hometown: Wheeling, WV

“The best part of being a program instructor is working directly with the kids, helping them grow their democratic skills.”

Ayman N. Soliman: University of Alexandria (Egypt), Bachelor’s of Commerce

Hometown: Alexandria, Egypt

“I love working at Close Up because it is inspiring and empowering to feel that you can actually make a change and leave a long-lasting impact on students’ lives.”

Katie Whitmire: University of Virginia, BA-American Politics & History

Hometown: Yorktown, VA

“I love working with students from across the country and seeing them exposed to different viewpoints that they may not hear in their own communities.”

Freya Yskes: Aquinas College, BA-Political Science & International Studies; Marquette University, MA-International Affairs

Hometown: Grandville, MI

“My favorite part of Close Up is helping students find their voice and place in our democracy. As a two-time alumnus of the high school program, Close Up helped me find my passion for government and I haven’t looked back since!”

Senior Program Instructors

Ian Hendrie: Mount St. Mary’s University, BA-Political Science

Hometown: Potomac, MD

“The best part about being a PI is having the opportunity to meet young people from a broad range of geographic and community backgrounds and watch them come together and engage in democratic debate.”



Melanie Calantropio: Drew University, BA Anthropology

Hometown: Cedar Grove, NJ

“I believe that now, more than ever, it is important to encourage younger generations to form opinions and get involved. Close Up is the perfect opportunity to get young people involved.”

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.”

Taylor Jobin: West Virginia University, BA Strategic Communications

Hometown: Fairfax, VA

“My favorite part of Close Up is mock Congress, which is where students get their first real, hands-on experience on the inner workings of Congress. Mock Congress sets the students up for their day on Capitol Hill, as well as a lifetime of political efficacy.”

Katie Jones: University of Kansas, BA Architectural Studies and History of Art; University of Texas at El Paso, MEd – Special Education

Hometown: Kansas City, MO

“I love being a program instructor because students get to see how Washington, DC operates and how this influences the entire country.”

Josh McDonnell: University of South Carolina Upstate, BA History

Hometown: Spartanburg, SC

“The most rewarding thing about being a program instructor is being able to help create empowered young citizens.”

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!”

Shawn Ralston: Binghamton University, BA English, Gen. Literature

Hometown: Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, NY

“The most exciting part of being a Close Up Instructor is interacting with students from a variety of backgrounds. It is always beneficial to understand the youth experience in different communities across the United States.”

Shelby Teets: James Madison University, BA History

Hometown: Winchester, VA

I love getting to inform young adults about their national government and its history.”

Program Instructors

Teddi Aaron: College of Charleston, BA Communications and International Studies

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

“Using DC as a living classroom is a gift that I love to share with others. It is a city that always has something to offer in terms of civic education and democracy.”



Mouayad Abu-Shanab: Furman College, BA Political Science

Hometown: Yafa, Palestine/Greenville, SC

“I believe that Close Up’s mission to inform, inspire, and empower young people is so important because a democracy works best when everybody is involved and the ability to do that at such a young age at Close Up gives all of us a better future in order to continue to develop and grow this nation.”

Jacob Abosbitan: James Madison University, BS Global Justice Studies

Hometown: Fredericksburg, VA

“The most exciting part of being an instructor seeing the growth of our students as we explore the democratic process, and assisting them in becoming active citizens.”

Josiah Barrett: Montreat College, BS Outdoor Education

Hometown: Surry County, VA

“I love helping students realize that the story of Washington, D.C. and the story of our country belongs to all citizens and that they can have a direct impact on the future of that story.”

Lindi Barrett: Montreat College, BS Outdoor Education

Hometown: Minneapolis, MN/Copenhagen, DK

“DC is a city at the center of where crucial decisions are made and American history and culture radiates, and it’s going to be your classroom! The memorials are your walls, museums are your chalkboard, and history your teacher.”

Hope Bryant: The University of Montana, BA Political Science

Hometown: Drummond, MT

“The best part of being a program instructor is being able to help students find their voice and realize that they can be active participants in our political system.”

Nicole Compton: George Washington University, BA International Affairs

Hometown: Palos Verdes, CA

“My favorite part of working with students is watching them get inspired to become active citizens for a strong democracy.”

Ethan Daley: Michigan State University, BSW

Hometown: Milford, MI

“I really enjoy getting to see young people’s excitement when they learn about their government and history with Close Up.”

Nick DeAngelis: University of Rhode Island, BA Social Studies and Secondary Education

Hometown: North Providence, RI

“The most exciting part of my job is being the educator that these students learn from throughout the week, bringing new knowledge and understanding of our nation’s capital.”

Ja'Lisa Dixon: University of Maryland, College Park, BA American Studies

Hometown: Largo, MD

“Close Up’s unique interactive learning environment makes it so exciting to work with students as they discover civics in the nation’s capital.”

Charmaine Edmonds: Pennsylvania State University, BS Public Policy

Hometown: Washington, DC

“As a native Washingtonian, being a program instructor gives me the opportunity to provide students with knowledge about Washington’s rich history and policy-driven views.”

Delan Ellington: University of Missouri, BA Anthropology & Public History

Hometown: Chicago, IL

“DC is the perfect combination of historical and constantly relevant. Using it as a classroom allows students to inherently see events, places, and people in multiple contexts at once.”

Daniel Hastings: Hobart and William Smith Colleges, BA History

Hometown: Geneva, NY

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

Bree Hersch: College of William and Mary, BA Latin American Studies

Hometown: Staunton, VA

“As a program instructor, I love being a part of a bridge for mutual understanding and friendships.”

George LaValle: University of Maryland, College Park, BA English Literature

Hometown: College Park, MD

“My favorite part of being a program instructor is getting the chance to work with students from diverse backgrounds and helping them mature into well-informed citizens.”

Daniel Lembo: College of William and Mary, BS Neuroscience

Hometown: Caldwell, NJ

“Understanding how young students view civics, history, and politics is the ultimate highlight of working at Close Up as a program instructor.”

David Leviev: West Virginia University, BA Political Science

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

“I enjoy working at Close Up because I’m able to have the opportunity to show young students history and civics from a creative and unique perspective. I think it’s a great honor to be able to educate the youth on civics and democracy.”

Annalisa Levinrad: University of Oregon, BA International Studies & Spanish

Hometown: Eugene, OR

“Washington, DC, is such an inspiring city. It has the ability to be a powerful tool in empowering and teaching students about democracy and the democratic process. By using DC as a living classroom, we have the ability to harness all the energy of the city for creativity, learning, and maximizing student potential.”

Monique Leyden: State University of New York at Old Westbury, BA American Studies/Media & Communications

Hometown: Queens, NY

“The best part of being a program instructor is that I get to connect with students from various parts of the country and encourage them to become active citizens in their home communities.”

D.J. Livermore: Mount Allison University, BA History

Hometown: Wilmington, MA

“Being an instructor gives me the opportunity to talk about history and politics – two of my favorite things!”

Meredith Meads: Salisbury University, BA Cultural Studies & Spanish

Hometown: Silver Spring, MD

“The best part of being a program instructor is getting out in DC and appreciating all it has to offer our students!”

Erica Nelson: Gustavus Adolphus College, Social Studies Teaching

Hometown: Janesville, IA

“I am excited to watch students grow as citizens in a classroom as engaging as Washington, DC. Getting to know students as diverse individuals is one of the highlights of my day.”

Kimberly Poff: University of Tulsa, BS Mechanical Engineering and Economics

Hometown: Alexandria, VA

“As a native of the area, it’s so thrilling to show people the city I grew up in and give them an idea of how our government really works.”

Matthew Robinson: George Mason University, BA History

Hometown: Providence, RI

“The best part of my job is that I get to use DC as a tool to explain American history.”

Darlene Sainvil: University of Miami, BA; Columbia University, MSSW

Hometown: Bay Shore, NY

“I believe the Close Up mission is important because there is a need to actively engage youth in civic education in new and innovative ways. It plants the seed of agency that inspires students to remain or become active agents of change in their communities.”

Marco Sanchez: American University, BA Political Science

Hometown: Ramona, CA

“I am always eager to share every monument, neighborhood, museum, and park with our participants because they all have an amazing story.”

Michael Sheehan: University of Maryland, College Park, BA History

Hometown: Bethesda, MD

“The best part of being a program instructor is engaging with students from all over the country as they explore DC to learn more about civic education.”

Gianna Splitstoser: University of Alaska Anchorage, BA Economics; University of Alaska Fairbanks, MS Resource Economics

Hometown: Fairbanks, AK

“I fell in love with DC and its history when I attended Close Up as a high school senior so I am honored to guide the next generation of Close Up students through our program!”

Benjamin Turner: University of South Carolina, BA Journalism

Hometown: South Bend, IN

“It’s exciting to help students understand their government, their role in the government, and how they can change their government.”

Jackie Perez Valencia: University of La Verne, BS Sociology

Hometown: Pico Rivera, CA

“It is important to provide safe spaces for young people to have conversations and debates with their peers since they are at an age of curiosity and growth. Close Up provides them the place to express their beliefs.”

Jonathon White: Bard College, BA Political Science

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

“I really enjoy educating students about politics, which is a subject I truly love to teach.”

MacKenzie Woodruff: University of Mary Washington, BA History

Hometown: McLean, VA

“Being a program instructor at Close Up is great because a simple walk down the street gets students excited about civics!”

Teacher Program Specialists

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.”




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.”

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.”

MaryBeth Wagner: Catholic University, BA History & Secondary Education; Marist College (Italy), MA: Museum Studies

Hometown: Kane, PA

“The most exciting part of being a Teacher Program Specialist is seeing how teachers can use what they learn from Close Up to motivate their students to have their voices heard.”


"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