“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~ St. Augustine
Well, several BCS students certainly took St. Augustine’s advice! Over spring break, four students and three adult chaperones traveled to Washington D.C. and New York City for an amazing adventure that will last in their minds forever.
On the trip were three BWA students, including Junior MacKenzie Cronin and Senior Aaliyah Huggins, as well as BEC Senior Adria “Art” Tollefson. Joining in on the fun was BWA staff member DeAnna Hoccom, BEC counselor Stormy Ballenger, and grandmother Debbie Robinson.
These students had been saving up and planning for this trip for a very long time, and they couldn’t wait to get started! Art is an experienced traveler, and she was looking forward to expanding her cultural and historical knowledge. Mackenzie had been to NYC before, but she was excited to get a closer look this time. Aaliyah, who had never traveled before, felt excited and ready. For her, this was a passage into adulthood. “I think it was important for me because I got a big dose of independence,” she says. All the students gained a lot of confidence and first-hand knowledge, and they learned to really appreciate our nation’s rich history and variety of people.
Right after getting off the plane at Washington D.C., the sleepy group hurried over to the Smithsonian Institution to meet their tour guide. The Smithsonian is the world’s largest educational institution, containing 19 museums, the National Zoo, and numerous cultural and research centers. Believe it or not, the travelers took their tour in their pajamas!
After the tour, the group got a chance to settle down at their hotel and begin their exploration of Washington D.C. Their itinerary was packed full of destinations, and students were also able to plan what to do in their free time. Mount Vernon, George Washington’s mansion in Virginia, was one of the first destinations. The stately mansion sits on a beautiful, green estate, and a guided tour makes you feel like you’re really living in the 18th century. “It is such a beautiful and peaceful place to go,” recalls Mackenzie.
There were also some destinations that were sad and moving. The Vietnam War Memorial moved everyone, especially Ms. Ballenger. “I did not expect to feel such emotion in places full of tourist activity,” she says. It was a somber moment when they visited Arlington National Cemetery in Vermont, where President John F. Kennedy was buried after he was assassinated. Ms. Robinson remembers the cemetery “with the stillness of remembrance of President Kennedy.” She was only 12 when he died and can recall the moment like it was yesterday.
Of course, no trip to Washington D.C. would be complete without a tour of the White House! They also visited the Lincoln Memorial in Virginia and spent quite a bit of time learning about government and history. Art particularly enjoyed observing people and taking in all the details about how our country runs. She was constantly pointing out facts and tidbits about history and making analyses of her observations.
As their stay at D.C. came to a close, the students got ready for the next part of their adventure. Next stop: New York City! Mackenzie had already been to NYC when she was smaller, but she was looking forward to taking a more in-depth look. After taking another plane ride and settling down at their new hotel, the students were ready for more action! They took a walk through Times Square, an incredibly busy and unique entertainment, commercial, and tourist center in Manhattan. Watching The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway was an experience the students never forgot. They also took a ride on NYC’s famous subways (“you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a subway ride!” says Ms. Robinson).
The students' visit to New York was a great opportunity to learn about America's history. They learned about immigrants in the early 20th century and took their same path. They visited the Statue of Liberty, which greeted millions of immigrants coming into America for the first time. Then they took a ferry ride to the nearby Ellis Island, which served as a gateway for immigrants. Many Americans have distant relatives that came to America through Ellis Island,
Everyone can agree, though, that one of the best parts of visiting New York was taking a night tour of the monuments! Aaliyah particularly enjoyed this: “I mean they're really pretty in the day but when night falls and they're all lit up, it's pretty magical,” she says. As the sky darkened, the four students and the three adults went up in the Empire State Building. When they reached the top and looked out the window, what they saw nearly took their breath away. The whole city of Manhattan was lit against the black sky, and a chilly breeze swept against them. It all looked magical, glittering, and amazing.
There were also some deeply personal experiences on the trip. One of these moments occurred at Macy's. Ms. Debbie Robinson and the rest of the group were waiting for an elevator, and there another older gentlemen waiting, too. After striking up a conversation with Ms. Robinson, he found out she is Danish. “I am Jewish, I was in Europe during Hitler's reign,” he told her. He thanked her, because it was the people of her home country that saved his life. This was such a touching and inspiring moment for everyone.
Traveling is an amazing way for students to expand their horizons and perhaps leave their comfort zones a little. “It aids with self-identity and personal growth, it opens their minds to a new different way of living…” says Ms. Hoccom. Ms. Ballenger thinks that traveling is important for middle and high schoolers because it brings their education to life. Mackenzie also advises students to take advantage of this opportunity: “…don't miss out on an experience like this, it [is] truly amazing some of the things you get to see.”
What do you want to be doing next spring? If you’re ready for fun, adventure, learning, and growth, you may want to start saving up for the next trip! To learn more and to ease your parents' worry about safety, ask your advisory teacher about the next informational meeting!
A huge thank you to DeAnna Hoccom, Stormy Ballenger, and Debbie Robinson for supporting our student travelers and to all the parents, teachers, and students who supported and donated for this trip! This wouldn't have been possible without you, and you’ve made a huge difference in the lives of these students!