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Ramona Middle School Students Set Their Sights on Washington, D.C.; Nation’s Capital Won’t be the Same!

January 28, 2010
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Ms. Jan Reck and student

Ms. Jan Reck and student

Come Spring Break in early April, most Ramona Middle School students will be sleeping in, running to the beach or catching up on their video games, but for about 80 Ramona students, they’ll still be cramming in their American History.

Not by reading about the legends and landmarks described in the U.S. history books, but by actually visiting these historic sites and shrines that bring to life and pay homage to the visionary leaders who helped build this nation often at great peril and personal sacrifice to themselves and their families.

Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

Organized by U.S. history teacher Jan Reck, the students will embark on their great journey eastward aboard Jet Blue from Long Beach on April 1 and land at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. later that day, and return to the Southland on April 6.

In that time, they’ll visit Williamsburg, Va., Jamestown, Charlottesville (Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello is there), and Manassas (site of the first Civil War battle) before arriving back in the nation’s capital to visit a mind-numbing number of must-see places in and around Washington, D.C., such as the White House, Ford’s Theater, the Holocaust Museum, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, World War II Memorial, Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, Supreme Court, Washington Monument and Arlington Cemetery, where four Ramona students will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Seeing all that history up front and personal does not come cheap. The cost per student is about $2,000.

“It’s a big investment so I feel like I need to cram as many things in as I possibly can,” said Ms. Reck, who gets even more excited than her students when discussing the trip now just two months away. “It will be go, go, go,”

One of those eight-graders who will be on the go is Amanda Gottmers. “I’ve always wanted to travel, especially to a place like Washington, D.C.,” she said before the start of class. “There are so many landmarks, and when Ms. Reck talks about all these places in class, it’s just seems so amazing. So I really want to go and see everything there.”

To help make the trip a reality, students have sold See’s Candy, held yard sales, recycled cans and bottles, and asked relatives to help make up the difference.  The fundraising will continue almost up until the time the kids and their chaperones are in the air.

“I have a lot of kids whose grandmas are coming to the rescue to write check,” Ms Reck admitted.

There are a limited number of partial scholarships as well, but again the size has been limited because of the economy. “We just didn’t do what we normally do for fundraising,” Ms. Reck said. “I’ve had to raise money for scholarships, but it only goes so far.”

Christopher Columbus didn’t find it easy to raise money for his voyages to the new world, either. He was turned down by many European monarchs before Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella reluctantly agreed to finance his exploration. So, fundraising and the art of financing are two more lessons the students will have learned.

“It breaks my heart that the trip is so much money,” Ms Reck said. “I can remember the days when it was $1,100 or $1,200.” The cost covers all air and bus travel, hotel accommodations, meals and admissions to all the sites — everything except personal spending money for souvenirs and any add-on baggage fees.

Still, 78 students are expected to make the trip, and a few others have been wait-listed, hoping to join their fellow travelers.

Like so many of the students, Amanda would like to tour the White House, but visitations are not as easy as the recent American couple (Tareq and Michaele Salhi)  who recently crashed a state dinner make it seem. The White House requires a six-month notice, and then “it’s literally up to the very next day” of your reservation before you learn whether your request is granted, Ms Reck said.

If the White House and its 44th president Barack Obama are off limits, Ramona students will still make it to that other house, Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington, the nation’s first president. Washington never got to tour the White House either. It was still under construction while he was president. That honor fell to John Adams, his vice president and the second president of the United States.

In early April, Washington D.C. will be a busy place, with tourists and travelers drawn by the cherry blossoms and the countless other charms and aphrodisiacs of the most powerful place on earth. Included in that crush of visitors will be a strong contingent of students and teachers from Ramona Middle School, delving deeper into the nation’s history while making new friends.

“They’ll come back tired, but wiser,” Ms. Reck said.

Sometimes, you have to sacrifice things like hard-earned money, sleeping in and hanging at the beach to see what really makes the world go round.

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Residents and supporters of this wonderful excursion can still donate by going to the student store section of the Ramona Middle School web site (http://ramona.revtrak.net/tek9.asp?pg=products&specific=jnlrmme8&sess=ea9bd6bc001d0543589e93e302be03e8)  Your donation will make it possible for more students to attend this wonderful trip and personally experience the great, ongoing American experiment.

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