Over 40 Years of Inspiring, Empowering and Engaging Students and Educators

Close Up’s mission – informing, inspiring, and empowering young people to exercise the rights and accept the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy – is deeply rooted in Close Up’s unique history and founding. During the late 1960’s, Close Up founder Steve Janger brought high school students from around the country to Europe in order to study foreign governments. However, as events in the United States and the rest of the world unfolded, Janger began to see a growing cynicism surrounding American government and policies. Dedicated to student travel but determining there was a need for students to gain a better understanding of their own government; Janger founded the Close Up Foundation in 1971. While there were other programs available at the time that catered solely to high-achieving students, Janger understood the need to involve all students in the democratic process through current issue debates, collaborative learning, and the development of citizenship skills. For over 41 years, Close Up has strived to fulfill that mission and the goals of its founder by inspiring, empowering, and engaging young people and educators from across the United States and the world.

1970/1971 Close Up’s first program year is a small but successful one. The Washington High School Program begins with 554 students from Oklahoma, Texas and Florida.

1971/1972 Allen J. Ellender Fellowship Program approved by Congress. Louisiana and Georgia join program.

1973/1974 Close Up produces its first video for classroom use.

1975 Close Up launches first program for hearing-impaired students.

1975/1976 Close Up welcomes the 10,000th participant on program, and the first edition of Current Issues is published. President Gerald Ford speaks to Close Up students.

1977/1978 Close Up begins its parallel teacher program, providing teachers with the opportunity to gain valuable professional development in Washington DC Visually-impaired students take part in program for the first time. Twenty-six states are now represented on program.

1978/1979 First Close Up on C-SPAN show is produced.

1979/1980 First international students participate in Close Up to learn about United States government and foreign policy.

1980/1981 First Close Up alumni groups begin to form around the country.

1981/1982 Close Up Television wins an ACE Award, the cable industry’s highest award, and a Silver Award from the International Film and Video Festival. First Washington Notebook published for student use on program.

1983/1984 Close Up partners with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to launch the first Washington and Williamsburg High School Program to help students better understand the roots of American democracy. President Ronald Reagan speaks to Close Up students. First students from the Pacific Islands participate on the Close Up program from American Samoa.

1984/1985 Department of Defense Dependent Schools begin participating on program with students from Panama and Guantanamo Bay. Students from Puerto Rico participate on the Close Up program for the first time.

1985/1986 The Close Up Program reaches students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

1986/1987 First Close Up Pacific Basin Program runs in Honolulu to help students and teachers explore and analyze key economic, environmental, security and diplomatic issues in the Asia-Pacific region. Close Up partners with the Bureau of Indian Education to bring students from BIE schools on program for the first time.

1987/1988 Recently immigrated students participate in Close Up’s first Program for New Americans (PNA). The PNA program features a unique curriculum designed to help students understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in their new country.

1988/1989 Over 2,000 students and teachers participate on the first Close Up Inauguration Program - witnessing President-elect George Bush and Vice President-elect Dan Quayle take the oath of office. This is the largest single Close Up program to date.

1989/1990 President Bush meets with Close Up students at the White House for a televised question and answer session. Close Up conducts first American Indian residential program “Navajo Nation Close Up” in Window Rock, Arizona.

1990/1991 Close Up students participate in the first Close Up U.S.S.R. program. Close Up television is awarded the Media and Methods Excellence in Education Award for Democracy and Rights: One Citizen’s Challenge narrated by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

1991/1992 Close Up partners with the Constitutional Rights Foundation to produce curriculum for Active Citizenship Today (ACT), a service learning program that brings schools and communities together to help get more young people civically involved locally, regionally, and nationally.

1992/1993 First Close Up program for middle school students. This new middle school civic education program focuses on U.S. History to meet the curricular needs of students at a pivotal age for their development of civic awareness.

1993/1994 Close Up partners with the State Department to conduct programming for students from the former Soviet Union to teach them about the underpinnings of democracy and civil society. Close Up publishes Citizenship in Balance textbook, which examines the rights and responsibilities of Native Americans as dual citizens.

1995/1996 Close Up celebrates the 400,000th participant on program. Two Close Up alumni are elected as members of Congress – U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana and U.S. Congressman Adam Smith from Washington.

1996/1997 Close Up partners with American Express for the First Vote initiative. First Vote provides voter registration and education to students and teachers. Close Up and C-SPAN partner with the new Newseum for show production. Close Up begins a partnership with United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) to provide programming to students from USET tribes.

1998/1999 President Bill Clinton addresses Close Up students. Close Up produces Profiles of Freedom: A Living Bill of Rights funded by the Pew Charitable Trust and earns an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award.

2000/2001 Close Up launches a major program benefitting the District of Columbia Public Schools with 200 students enrolling in the first year. Close Up begins a partnership with the Freedom Forum focusing on aspiring high school journalism students and conducts its largest Washington program to date with 4,500 participants during the Inauguration of George W. Bush.

2001/2002 Close Up launches the first Great American Cities Program for students in select communities. Participating students are asked to complete Community Action Initiatives that range from gaining representation on their school boards to conducting traffic safety seminars at their school. Over 500,000 participants have been on Close Up to date.

2004/2005 Close Up partners with the Department of State to conduct programming for students from the Middle East on Democracy and Civil Society. Students meet with President George W. Bush in the Rose Garden of the White House. Close Up founder and CEO, Steve Janger, retires from Close Up. Tim Davis, 1971 Close Up alum, is appointed as new CEO on 7/1/2005.

2006/2007 Close Up begins programming in New York City for high school students with a new curriculum focusing on immigration issues, foreign affairs and the economy. Close Up begins programming for middle school students in Philadelphia using the National Constitution Center and Independence Park as springboards for discussing America’s founding ideals and history.

2008/2009 Close Up begins a partnership with the National Indian Education Association to provide programming to students from tribes around the country. On program in November 2008, students participate in a Mock Election and hours later watch history take place as the nation elects the first African-American president. Over 3,000 participants witness history again in January at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama.

2010/2011 Close Up continues to support students from military families with a new program “Operation Next Generation” sponsored by Deloitte. Students take part in the Washington High School program and attend a Pentagon Panel seminar. Close Up marks participation of over 740,000 students and teachers on its programs and celebrates 40 years of civic education each week with teachers and partners at its new office location.

2011/2012 Close Up continues to expand its customized programming by welcoming over 700 participants from Boys and Girls Clubs of America to Washington, DC. Students on Close Up’s Program for New Americans have the opportunity to hear from Dr. Lisa Ramirez, National Director for Migrant Education.


"It seems so cliché to say, but Close Up is life changing for both students and teachers. In my 28 years of teaching I feel Close Up has been my greatest experience. I have seen it change hundreds of students’ lives and has given them opportunities you can only experience on Close Up."

   – Jon, Teacher, GA
Educating for democracy since 1971