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What's it like to see the nation's capital through the eyes of a young adult? This week, we're letting you do just that. For five days, KSMU's Theresa Bettmann tagged along on her son's year-end school trip to Washington D.C. and brought back this feature report.
[sound-airplane taking off]
As the Boeing 717-200 series airplane lifts off, several of the kids are fast asleep. The group has been on the road since 1:00 am. For many, this is their first time on an airplane. And for some, the first time to leave Missouri.
46 of us are making this educational pilgrimage. Debbie DeAlmeida is a teacher at Hickory Hills School in Springfield, and one of the trip chaperones.
“D.C.is always on the map for us, simply because it is such a marker for our nation’s history. I firmly believe every student should have the opportunity to go to their nation’s capital to see the beauty of the architecture, but also the richness of the history that we have. And my goal is always just to bring kids there to experience it themselves. It’s really the best thing to me that I can give a student,” DeAlmeida says.
DeAlmeida says these trips are not put together by the school, but rather by groups of teachers and counselors who like to travel and help bring the textbooks to life.
[Sound=sound of kids singing]
Our first stop is Ft. McHenry, birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner. Eventually, we'll make it to the various monuments, the Smithsonian, The National Zoo, Ford’s Theatre, The White House, and Mt. Vernon.
Many of the stops were lighthearted; others were sobering and thought-provoking. Student Morgan Schaefer was especially moved by one destination.
“The Holocaust Museum. I really liked Daniel’s story. There was a boy named Daniel who was taken during the Holocaust and it told about what happened to him. And it was really touching to me because I am 12 years old, and Daniel was 11 years old, when it all started. So we were really close in age,” Schaefer says.
And for student Arend Galland, it was something else.
“Seeing the famous documents in the Archives. Just because that is kind of what our whole country is based on. And because they are so old and how much our government is doing to protect them, because they are kind of the basis of our society,” Galland says.
Suzie Bryant is the mother of a Jarrett Middle School student, who also participated in the trip. She also brought her mother, meaning three generations experienced it together.
“I knew this trip was going to be an opportunity to see all kinds of things in D.C. for a very cost effective time. I would never have an opportunity again to see all of these places, in this amount of time, for this cost. To be led along and guided and toured,” Bryant says.
She said the simple beauty of the memorials were a strong reminder of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Brian Vega, school counselor for Hickory Hills, says next year the group may travel to Belize.
“My favorite part about taking middle school students on trips is seeing the world open up in front of their eyes. Seeing them just expand their horizons. To see them walk in front of the monuments, to see them walk into the Capital Building, these things that they see and hear about and study about. To realize ‘Wow’ and these are memories that I think they will carry around with them forever,” Vega says.
Both Vega and DeAlmeida say many area schools take student trips. But if yours doesn't, you're welcome to contact Hickory Hills about tagging along on their next adventure, just like I did. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.
The group trip is booked by teachers, but each student and parent paid for their own trip.