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Fifteen Years of 'Congressional Seminars'

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Washington Workshops began in 1967 when a Washington educational consultant who had always wanted to visit the capital when he was in high school invited students to spend part of their summer in Washington.

Today, Leo S. Tonkin's original idea has mushroomed into 10 week-long programs he calls "Congressional Seminars." They run from January to June, with 135 to 140 senior-high-school students attending each session. Two weeks are also set aside for junior-high-school students, and the foundation Mr. Tonkin established sponsors an internship program for 100 past participants three times a year, according to the foundation's assistant director, Thad T. Burkley.

Program Features: Students stay in "on-campus" housing at northern Virginia's Marymount College. They spend four days on Capitol Hill, then return to the college for seminars with professors and Washington professionals. Students meet nightly to discuss national issues and, on the last night, hold a "model Congress," during which student-sponsored bills are introduced and debated, explains Mr. Burkley.

Instructors: Many of Washington Workshops' counselors are former workshop participants, according to Mr. Burkley. Each adult counselor is responsible for 20 to 25 students, travels with them during the day, and resides at Marymount College at night.

Teacher Programs: Washington Workshops invites a limited number of teachers to participate in the program. Those who attend come with a group of students or with a student who attends a school that is participating in the program for the first time. They pay their own way.

Selection Procedure and Criteria for Acceptance: Students file applications and attend the program week on an individual basis and are accepted on the basis of motivation, grades, and extracurricular activities, says Mr. Burkley. Many schools post announcements about the program, which sends application forms to interested teachers; in some cases, schools sponsor an essay contest to select a program participant. Washington Workshops accepts representatives from 35 to 40 states for each session, according to Mr. Burkley, although there is usually an "East Coast bias" due to travel costs, he says.

Tuition: Washington Workshops students pay $365 for the junior-high-school program and $395 for the senior-high-school program, plus transportation for their trip to the capital. Participants generally seek financial aid within their own communities and through various fund-raising activities.

Additional Activities: Washington Workshops schedules periodic reunions in Washington for Congressional Seminar alumni. In addition, program officials are exploring the possibility of exchange programs with England, Sweden, and Australia, countries with which they now have liaisons and which operate similar programs, according to Mr. Burkley.

For more information: Write or call Thad T. Burkley, assistant director, Washington Workshops Foundation, 3222 N St., N.W., Suite 340, Washington, D.C. 20007, (202) 965-3434.--A.B.

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