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A class trip proves beneficial for Nevis High School students

Nevis High School students pose by the Statue of Liberty in New York on their final day of their nine day trip before heading home to Minnesota. (Submitted photo)

On Nov. 13, 23 students from Nevis High School, along with eight adults departed from Nevis on a nine-day class trip to visit Washington D.C. Any student in grades 10 through 12 with a 3.0 GPA or higher that was able to pay their expenses was given the opportunity to travel with the group to the nation's capitol.

On day one, the students went to Arlington Cemetery to watch the Changing of the Guard. They also saw the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame and the Iwo Jima Memorial, afterwards they toured the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving.

The group was then split into smaller, chaperoned groups and given the opportunity to walk through various Smithsonian Museums; each group seeing different things than others.

The students had purchased tickets for a dinner cruise on the Potomac River. The students had dressed up in their evening wear expecting a fancy meal that they had practiced eating for. Instead, they were bumped to the lowest deck on the boat, dining with over 160 sixth graders, eating tacos and mac and cheese. The evening however wasn't a total loss for the students, they were able to take over the dance floor, dancing the night away.

On their second day in D.C., the students saw all of the monuments while on foot, including the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, National WWII Memorial and along the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. They toured the White House, stating that their wait in the security line took longer than the actual tour.

Originally, the students were scheduled to meet up with a member of U.S. Representative Rick Nolan's staff for a capitol tour, but instead they were given the tour from Representative Nolan himself; they got to see things the general public normally does not get to see.

"He had several opportunities to leave us, but he didn't," senior Wyatt Tauber said, impressed with the interaction. "It was cool because during the dinner cruise and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving they treated us like we were bad elementary school kids and he (Nolan) took us to the speaker balcony and the house chamber and all of that, so it was really neat."

"One of my favorite parts was going out on the balcony where the president makes his inauguration speech, you can see what he sees when he's giving it," senior Hannah Anderson said.

During their visit to the Capitol, the scaffolding was being put in place for the upcoming inauguration, which was made more significant for the students to see that in progress during an election year.

On their last day in D.C., the students took a 45-minute subway ride during rush hour to the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

"It was worth it," senior Emma Bliss explained about seeing the panda bears at the zoo. With only 23 places in the world that house pandas, the students were excited for the opportunity to see them.

Next, was a tour of the Library of Congress, the students all spoke about how impressed they were with the beauty of the details in the murals and carvings throughout the building.

According to senior Hailee Bjorkstrand, the highlight of the trip for her was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which made a lasting impression for a lot of the students. Individuals went through the museum on their own, receiving a booklet at the beginning of the tour that portrayed the story of a person's life who lived through the holocaust; each student was given a different story.

"It was definitely one of the hardest things that I've had to go through," junior Annalise Ahrendt said about her personal experience. "It was good going to do it, but it's something I probably wouldn't want to go through again."

"One thing that really hit me was this railroad car that you walked through which hundreds of people were crammed into in order to transport them, and you had to walk through it to continue the tour. That was really hard," Bjorkstrand said.

The group then went to Old Town Alexandria in Alexandria, VA where they were given the opportunity to explore in small groups. Later in the evening some students went to tour the Pentagon Memorial.

The next day they stopped at Gettysburg National Military Park on their way to New York City. They were given a tour guide while driving around to see various monuments that represented different regiments in the Civil War. According to the students, they arrived at Gettysburg the day before the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, missing all of the reenactments and impersonators by one day.

The students visited Times Square and got to see "Phantom of the Opera" on their first night in New York City. "That was really cool," "awesome" and "absolutely amazing" were a few of the comments regarding the experience of seeing the show in its final season on Broadway.

According to the students, their second day in New York was a whirlwind, cramming in as many sites as they could. Among them, they saw the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park, Wall Street, Ground Zero, Rockefeller Center, St. Paul's Chapel, Trinity Church Cemetery, and of course, Trump Tower before heading back to Minnesota.

"I'd say that I learned more on that trip than I do some weeks at school," Anderson said in regard to why this trip was so memorable for her. "I understand a lot more now. You can feel the environment and people's emotions."

"Another thing that was really impactful was walking through Arlington National Cemetery and seeing all the names of people who have given up their lives for us to be where we are today," Ahrendt said. "Just to know that there are so many people who have helped us. You don't really realize it until you're standing there and seeing rows upon rows of graves."

"We spent eight hours total before leaving, going through what they were actually going to see and what it meant," career advisor and tour guide Jodi Sandmeyer said. "They needed that background information in the classroom, but when you get there it's completely different. The impression is now there."

The students used the Holocaust Museum as an example, viewing pictures of what they would be seeing prior to the trip did not prepare them emotionally for seeing it in person.

"It's totally different when you're actually there," Anderson said. "It definitely changed my perspective on things."

When asked about any advice they would give to those traveling to Washington D.C. for the first time, Bliss said, "Make time for the Smithsonians, set aside at least a full day because they are actually very interesting."

"I would say learn about the history of things before you go, otherwise, you might miss a lot," Ahrendt suggested. "And take your time. When you're walking, you can walk past a lot and you really need to take it in."

"The students were phenomenal. I couldn't have asked for a better group of students. The opportunity that they had is something they'll never forget," Sandmeyer said. "But the learning opportunity wasn't just about missing school for six days. The amount of experiences they got isn't something they could ever learn in a classroom."

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