Dalton Reed took a lot from a recent trip to Austin.

He learned about the history of the state government and got some insight into how the legislature works. One thing, though, sticks out in his mind as a highlight of the trip – the Texas State Capitol itself.

“When you are standing in the middle of the rotunda and looking up, you really see how gigantic it is,” he said, appreciation in his voice. “It’s hard for me to explain.”

Reed was one of more than 140 Collin College students, staff and faculty members who took part in Community College Day at the Capitol, Feb. 7, joining with colleges from around the state in a biennial event encouraging student involvement in government and helping open a dialogue with legislators about the benefits of community colleges.

Reed said he decided to go on the trip for the experience as much as what he would learn. He had never been to Austin before.

Tyler Young, a professor of political science at Collin and trip organizer, said that this visit to the state capital was likely a first for many of the students who participated.

“The number of students who haven’t been to Austin is pretty staggering, let alone the Capitol, and to be welcomed into that environment is wonderful,” Young said. “I feel like this trip was better than the ones in the past because they actually gaveled into session in both chambers. Many students were able to get into the gallery and watch them do their opening invocation, present business and have a little debate on the floor.”

More than that, the trip tends to be a learning experience in and of itself. Young said he appreciates the way the college treats the students on the trip, asking them to dress professionally, providing them with a per diem and letting them know they must determine their own meal options.

“Just being treated that way, in my mind, exposes them to being a professional,” he said. “You are trusted to make your own decisions.”

For his part, Reed said he appreciated having the chance to speak with a state senator, as well as seeing so many things of historical relevance.

“I think I learned a lot, and it really gave me some insight into how everything works,” he said.

The trip is sponsored by the Collin College Center for Scholarly and Civic Engagement.