Few of the students who stepped inside C-SPAN's ultra-high-tech recreational vehicle Monday had more than a vague idea of what C-SPAN is, but when they walked out, they were abuzz.
Desert View High School sophomore Fatima Gomez, 15, said she'd go to C-SPAN in the future to prepare for debates. Her classmate David Vera, 16, said he'd use C-SPAN for history papers, and Francisco Salcido, 16, was not only thinking about research projects, but the possibility of winning $5,000 in a C-SPAN documentary-making contest.
Eleven months out of the year, specialists with the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network are on the road educating people about the network's historical and nonfiction book programs, its political news interviews and its gavel-to-gavel coverage of U.S. government proceedings.
Along the way, the C-SPAN crew typically visits two middle or high schools per day, said Doug Hemmig, community relations representative.
On Monday, 120 Desert View High School students and 70 Apollo Middle School students joined the more than 30,000 teenagers who will tour the C-SPAN RV this year.
Inside the RV, they used large touch screens to explore C-Span's website and take various quizzes on branches of the government. Other large monitors aired footage of government proceedings. The teens learned C-SPAN has more than 190,000 hours of political and governmental footage available to them through its video library and Congressional Chronicle. They also heard about the network's new original series on Monday nights, "First Ladies: Influence & Image."
More than 70,000 teachers nationwide use C-SPAN to teach their students in the classroom, Hemmig said.
Salcido was especially interested to learn about StudentCam, C-SPAN's annual national video documentary competition. The 2013 entrants were asked to send a message to the president telling him what they think is the most important issue he should consider this year.
Desert View High Principal Jose Gastelum said this is the second year C-SPAN has come to visit his school. Last year, he arranged for history students to tour the 45-foot-long RV. This year videography and yearbook students participated.
Hemmig said he is continually impressed with the savvy of the nation's teens. "They are very well-versed on the hot topics and how they affect them."
Contact reporter Kim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4241.