Citizenship in Action

Dickinson Adult Learning Center students with North Dakota Governor Burgum

By: Lindy Obach, EL Teacher

In April, 25 Adult English Learners from the Dickinson Adult Learning Center boarded a big, yellow school bus and headed to Bismarck to see the hub of North Dakota government, culture, and history. Thanks to a grant from the DPS Foundation, our group toured the Capitol building, walked into both legislative chambers, talked with staff members of the ND Department of Public Instruction Adult Education Program, met and shared words (and selfies!) with Gov. Burgum and Superintendent Baesler, ate lunch among senators and representatives, and explored the ND Heritage Center and State Museum. Students arranged babysitters and work schedules to ensure they could be a part of this important field trip.  

The entire day was one big highlight, but some extra special moments were looking out across Bismarck and the ND prairie from the 18th story Observation Deck, taking pictures underneath the Great Seal of North Dakota, finding monkeys in the “Monkey Room,” joking with Gov. Burgum, and posing with T-Rexes and Giant Sloths.

For many of our students, this marked their first time visiting the Capitol.  One of our students worked for the government in his home of Kabul, Afghanistan before Taliban rule and told his teachers that this place felt familiar. Another one of our students, a young Muslim woman from Chad, was surprised and happy to meet another young Muslim woman, a newly-elected Representative from Fargo, in the House Chamber. Visibility is empowering, and it is the hope and goal of the DALC staff for our students to see themselves reflected in the place they now call home.

Here are some student voices about our trip:

“The visit to the Capitol was very interesting because I got to see where they make the important decisions for our state. But the most beautiful thing was the attention they had with us.”

“It was a nice experience, especially to know the Capitol is built with materials from other states and countries.”

“It was a good experience being inside the building where senators and representatives make the laws for ND.”

This trip was the first step in creating a Civics and Citizenship class for our DALC learners—hands-on learning is often the best kind of learning. A big thank you to the DPS Foundation, Cindy the Capitol Tour Guide Extraordinaire, and the ND government and education officials who took time out of their day to make our day memorable, educational, and fun!