Stories from the US campaign trail: 'We've seen democracy in action'

In our final instalment from UK sixth-formers who joined the US campaign trail, some of the students reflect on the insight they have gained into the world of politics

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As the final stages of the US presidential race got underway, 20 sixth-formers from five UK schools joined campaigners for Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton and a number of the Republican congressional races. The students are part of the Inspire US 2016 programme, run by education charity The Transformation Trust, which offers opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them develop new employability skills and grow in confidence. TES has published a report each day from the students.

Reporting are Liam Stobie, Katie Ewart, Caitlin Munn and Morven Mackay from Leith Academy, Edinburgh

Our time in the US is coming to an end but we couldn’t have had more exciting activities organised for us in Washington DC to round off our American adventure.

As soon as our flight from Tampa landed in Washington, we headed straight to the British Embassy to meet with the ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch. He shed some light on how the UK’s future "special relationship" with America might change with the coming of president-elect Donald Trump

We were surprised to hear that Mr Trump had, in fact, spoken that very morning with prime minister Theresa May and had told her that his intentions were to keep the bond between the two countries as tight as ever.

In fact, the conversation was apparently "extremely friendly" and Mr Trump told Mrs May that he hoped they could enjoy a relationship like that of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.


After a brisk walk down Massachusetts Avenue, admiring the autumn colours and trying to guess the flags on the embassies that we passed, we made our way to the White House complex. 

It had been a busy day for the residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as earlier the outgoing president, Barack Obama, and the First Lady had welcomed the future residents of that address. 

Our appointment was not in the Oval Office but in the Executive Office instead, with Rumana Ahmed, an adviser to the president.

'We've been part of an amazing time in America'

She talked to us candidly about the transition between the presidents, and told us how she herself had worked her way up from being a summer intern to her current position.  For many of us considering careers in politics and related fields, the day was an insight into that world and what may lie in store for us in the future.

The evening was a fitting end to our trip as we had a celebration dinner at the Old Ebbitt Grill, the oldest saloon in Washington and a dining institution. 

We were joined by Andy Bookless, our campaign school adviser, and staffer Melissa, who talked through the election results with us, as well as our plans when we return home. 

Awards were given out to schools and individuals to recognise and remind us of the skills we have learned over the past two weeks. It was a great feeling to see the whole group together and to cement the bonds of friendships we had made during the programme.

We have had the most magical and inspiring time on this trip.  Although there have been stressful moments and times when our patience has been tested, we have been part of a unique and amazing time in America. 

We’ve seen democracy in action in a country which shares many similarities with our own – but has many differences.

Finally, it would be remiss not to say thank you to Amy Leonard, Amy Hawkins and Sam Draper of The Transformation Trust.  Not only for choosing us out of all the schools which applied but also for their patience and expertise. 

We will never forget the 2016 US election or the friends we have made – it has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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