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.”

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

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.”

Adam Kubiske: Beloit College, BA International Relations

Hometown: Fairfax, VA

“The most exciting part of being a Close Up instructor is witnessing the spark of curiosity or the call to action that occurs every week with the students.”

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

Yazeed Abdelhaq: Florida State University, BS Political Science and International Affairs

Hometown: Tallahassee, FL

“DC lends itself as the perfect tool to learn about the ins and outs of the political process.”



Stephanie Alexander: Clark Atlanta University, BA Political Science, The American University of Paris, MA International Affairs

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

“The most exciting part about being a Program Instructor is the opportunity to inspire and equip students with the intellectual tools they need to be civically engaged.”

Aleksandra 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.”

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.”

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.”

Maxine Davis: American University, BA International Studies and Public Health

Hometown: Washington, DC

“Washington DC is a place where you get to see your history textbook come alive, from visiting the monuments and museums to seeing the inner workings of the Federal government. You get to experience a piece of American history with every step you take.”

Cory Gassett: University of Central Florida, BA History

Hometown: Jacksonville, FL

“I love working with young people in an impactful, non-traditional manner with a focus on civic engagement.”

Jan Gundersen: Philipps University Marburg (Germany), BA and MA Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic

Hometown: McLean, VA

“DC is a campus for learning and I hope to inspire students to become active and engaged citizens in our democracy.”

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.”

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.”

Joelle Leib: Scripps College, BA American Studies

Hometown: San Diego, CA

“The most rewarding part of my job is working with young people from across the country and teaching them about the power of history and government.”

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.”

Anya McMurrer: McGill University, BS Psychology

Hometown: Kinnelon, NJ

“It’s so important to create a new generation of engaged citizens, that’s why I love what I do.”

Noelle Nelson: Duquesne University, BA History and Political Science

Hometown: North East, PA

“The most exciting part about using DC as a classroom is the opportunity to show students their nation’s capital as a tangible concept.”

Hannah Newman: American University, BA International Studies

Hometown: Wake Forest, NC

“DC is an amazing city and being able to see where everything happens really helps reinforce topics that we cover and creates memorable experiences for the students.”

Allen Pinn: University of Virginia, BA History

Hometown: Lynchburg, VA

“I love working with students from all over the country. It’s interesting to see how they interact with one another and how their viewpoints differ.”

Alexa Rangecroft: Johns Hopkins University, BA History of Art and French

Hometown: Princeton, NJ

“I believe the Close Up mission is vital in the education of young people as they will inherit the responsibilities of representing their best interests and those of their local and global communities.”

Lila Raouf: Indiana University, BA International Studies and Arabic

Hometown: Mobile, AL

“DC inspires our students with all of its great energy!”

Jackie Sutherland: Northwest Nazarene University, BA History and English, MEd Curriculum, Innovation, and Instruction

Hometown: Nampa, ID

“Teaching students through hands-on experiences is so rewarding.”

Kyra Watkins: University of Mary Washington, BA Spanish and Political Science

Hometown: Chesapeake, VA

“Close Up’s mission is so important because it inspires people to have a voice in the world we live in.”

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.”

Destiny Williams: University of Mary Washington, BA International Affairs

Hometown: Woodbridge, VA

“The most exciting part of being an instructor is learning new things about domestic policy and getting to teach the students that come on program.”

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, Arkansas

“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.”

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