They were ferried by bus between a whirlwind of sites, memorials and monuments. At the same time, they learned leadership skills and took part in team-building exercises.
Four students from Holy Cross School in Charlotte said their tour of Washington, D.C., in March through the People to People program was just capital.
“I felt like a VIP,” said Elizabeth Cavacos, 11.
Everywhere the group went — even during bus rides — guides pointed out key pieces of U.S. history. The students also had a chance to view the Declaration of Independence and other American-history items.
Alexandria Jay, 12, said the most impressive thing for her was all the monuments and memorials at the capital. Andrew Conover, 11, said the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery was a sight he won’t forget.
“I would like to see the changing of the guards again,” Andrew said. “That was impressive.”
Anthony Licata said he thought the Holocaust Museum left a lasting impression.
“I hate how people mistreat other people for being different,” Anthony remarked.
The students also met up with a staff member from Rep. Louise Slaughter’s office, which they were surprised to find was decorated with items from Slaughter’s district, such as mementos from the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
“They saw more in one week than I have been able to take my kids to in four years,” said teacher Barbara Fessner, who said she and her family have made trips to Washington for the past several years.
The students were chosen to take part in the trip because it was determined they would be good representatives of the school, said social-studies teacher Chris Mulroy.
“We knew they needed an academic challenge,” Mulroy noted.
One goal of the People to People program — which was started by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 as a way to promote peace — is to develop leadership skills in students, said Mary Conover, Andrew’s mother. Though the trip cost about $2,000 per person, all meals, lodging and bus transportation around Washington were included in the price tag, she said.
The price of the trip also included having the kids’ digital photos of every place they visited put on CDs. This allowed them to share their trip with their classmates, said Sister Pat McDermott, Holy Cross’ educational-technology coordinator.
The students also brought back plenty of addresses of new friends from Texas, New Mexico, Ohio, Arizona and one student from South Africa. The trip was held on several successive weeks, and each week drew about 600 students. The students were then intermingled in various groups, the Holy Cross students said.
“You got to know people so well,” Elizabeth said. “I made a ton of friends.”