AP Government students asked Sen. Cruz and sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives several questions.
More than 650 people filled Oakbrook's gymnasium Wednesday to listen to Presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz.
But for a small number of Oakbrook students, the action happened before the main event began during an intimate Q&A session with the Texas Senator. Members of the AP Government class, which includes students in grades 10 through 12, asked Cruz several questions about his campaign, including how he would cut government waste and serve small business owners.
The students also had face-to-face time with several sitting congressmen - Iowa's Rep. Steve King, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, and South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan - before meeting Sen. Cruz.
AP Government teacher Jonathan Clayton said unique opportunities such as this help humanize the political process for students.
"Theoretical discussions about politics in the classroom and the barrage of advertisements on television and the radio can distance high school students from the substantive realities of the democratic process. This is an important election that has taken on a character of its own, and being able to interact with the candidates fires up the students about engagement in politics," Clayton said.
"It also shows them at a very real level that many of our representatives are just normal people who are in office to make a positive impact for the future based on their own true convictions, as well as the fact that they not only value the input of everyday citizens like you and me, but understand that it is us who send them to Washington in the first place."
Oakbrook Head of School Adair Hinds said regardless of political preference, firsthand experiences like this can often teach students more than what they find in textbooks.
"We don't endorse candidates; we endorse a Charlotte Mason approach to education where learning transcends books and classrooms. I know my son came home asking all about the election and who we should vote for and why," Hinds said.
While most of the students are not old enough to vote in Saturday's South Carolina GOP primary, they've been closely following the election and results coming out of other key states, including the Iowa caucuses where Cruz finished first as well as New Hampshire's Republican primary where he was third.
Oakbrook junior William Stephenson, who asked Rep. King how he believes his home state of Iowa and South Carolina are similar, said he felt honored to be among some of our nation's leaders.
"The event was a once in a lifetime experience where I had the chance to not only meet prominent members of Congress, but also have the chance to ask them questions on issues that concerned me as an individual. It was very exciting to see congressmen from around the country talk to the students and answer our questions," Stephenson said.
Oakbrook's Development Director Kyle Boyles, who once worked for former Massachusetts Governors William Weld and Mitt Romney, and has also been a part of several local and national campaigns, said South Carolina residents have the chance to witness Presidential politics up close and personal.
"Tonight many of our Oakbrook students were able to meet one of the leading Presidential contenders and asked questions with great depth and insight," said Boyles, who invited each of the candidates to Oakbrook.
"We extend our thanks to Senator Cruz and his campaign staff for visiting Oakbrook and making extra time for our students."