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Ely HS seniors off to D.C.

Ely Echo - Staff Photo - Create Article
ON CAPITOL HILL - Ely Memorial High School seniors and chaperones were joined by U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN) for a photo opportunity on Thursday morning.

by Tom Coombe

Nearly 30 years after it begun, Ely High School’s annual senior class trip to Washington, D.C. is still going strong - and still led by those who had a hand in getting it off the ground.

Frank Ivancich was still a young teacher when he took members of the Class of 1995 to the nation’s capital in the inaugural trek east.

Jeff Anderson, meanwhile, was part of that senior class

Today, Ivancich is in his final months as a social studies instructor in the Ely district while Anderson has carved his own niche in the political world as a registered lobbyist - in addition to owning restaurants in Duluth and Two Harbors.

Yet this weekend, both will also be in Washington, leading another group of Ely seniors and adult chaperones on a whirlwind, six-day adventure that started Wednesday.

Before departing this week, Ivancich indicated that this year’s trip will be like many of the previous ones, complete with a visit on the U.S. Capitol steps with U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R).

That’s just part of a busy week that includes stops at Arlington National Cemetery, the Library of Congress, Ford’s Theater, Mount Vernon, the National Air and Space Museum, and much more.

While it’s a new experience for most of the seniors and chaperones, it’s old hat for Ivancich, Anderson and longtime chaperones and retired teachers Rob Simonich and Janet Bigelow.

But for Anderson, who must take a one-day break to trek back and forth to St. Paul and testify at a legislative hearing, the experience never gets old and it remains a must on an increasingly busy schedule.

“All year I look forward to traveling with Frank, and our longtime DC traveling partners Rob Simonich and Janet Bigelow,” said Anderson. “After all these years, it’s still a lot of fun and we learn something new about DC and each other every year.”

It was Anderson who convinced Ivancich to begin taking Ely’s seniors to Washington, and it quickly became a staple on the calendar.

“When Mr. Ivancich started this trip in 1995, I never imagined that both of us would still be doing it 29 years later,” said Anderson. “It’s an honor to still be included and to participate in the trip. During that time I even obtained my Washington, D.C. tour guide license so now we’re even doing the trip by the book.”

More than 1,000 seniors and chaperones have taken the trek through the years, seeing the various sights in Washington and at times going beyond, traveling to Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Penn.

This year’s schedule includes a Sunday visit to Gettysburg and in addition to the numerous stops at museums and historic places, the Ely delegation will stop outside the White House for a photo opportunity, take in a production at the Kennedy Center and have an evening tour of the city’s illuminated monuments.

With an assist from Anderson, who has had stints as a Congressional aide, candidate for Congress, Congressional campaign staffer, lobbyist and city council member, the Ely group has meet with numerous Minnesota politicians.

That list entails current representatives including Stauber, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, as well as former representatives ranging from Chip Cravaack, Rick Nolan and Mark Dayton to the late Rod Grams, Paul Wellstone and Jim Oberstar.

The trip has included as many as 56 students and adults, and in recent years has expanded to involve students from neighboring Northeast Range High School in Babbitt.

A group including 34 current Ely seniors, one from Northeast Range, and many parents make up this year’s group.

The trip has taken place every year except from 2020-2022, when the Covid-19 pandemic and various restrictions prompted decisions to cancel.

Students pay over $1,000 to go on the trip, although they have the opportunity to offset some of those costs via fundraisers including a recent raffle.

In June, Ivancich will retire from his social studies position, but he plans to continue to lead the senior year D.C. trip.

Anderson said Wednesday that he too will continue to make time on his schedule to take part.

“The biggest reason I still do it, is the same reason we started doing it in the first place,” said Anderson. “Our nation’s capital city is a special place and we like sharing it with people. The history, the architecture, the workings of government and the people of this city are so important to our country and to the world. We are the planets oldest representative Republic, and it’s important that people visit the seat of our government and see it firsthand.”

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