KEENE VALLEY - A group of high school students at Keene Central School had an opportunity to visit a European country, and recently brought a piece of it back to their community to share.
More than a dozen students went on an 11-day trip to Spain from June 29 to July 9. During that time, they visited the cities of Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Granada, Seville, and several other places. They led an assembly at the school Oct. 15, telling students in grades 4-12 about the history, art, and culture they experienced overseas.
The trip was funded largely by the CADAHEMARK foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes overseas travel for youth. Funding from the Keene school board, the High Peaks Education Foundation, and many other donors made put the trip within reach for the Keene students.
Still, the students had to raise their own funds for the trip. They did so through a car wash, the sale of flower bulbs and baked goods, raffles, and soliciting donations from local businesses.
Twin sisters Michelle and Louisa Sardella were among the students who went on the trip, and both said it was a memorable learning experience.
"It was just beautiful," said Louisa, recalling the sights of Costa Del Sol and the historic buildings in Toledo.
During the trip, the students were required to speak Spanish, both to the people they met and to their chaperones.
"You really had to listen when they spoke to you," said Louisa. "They went so fast you could only catch a few words."
Besides the differences in language, the students also noted other subtle differences in the Spanish culture.
"People are much more outgoing," said Michelle. "They express what they're thinking and they don't hold anything back. They're very friendly."
Peg Wilson, a cultural consultant and Spanish teacher at Keene Central, said the trip was very valuable for the students and would not have been possible without all the financial support.
"I think they became more worldly as a result of this," said Wilson, who chaperoned the trip. "It just opens them up to the world."
"A lot of them had never even been on a plane before," said Spanish teacher Sarah Tremblay, who also chaperoned the trip.
The assembly featured six tables, each with interactive demonstrations developed and led by the well-traveled students. Students attending the program could view interpretive slideshows of Spanish architecture, hear about the traditions of bullfighting, or even sample a traditional Spanish tortilla recipe.
"It brings the experience back to the entire student body instead of just these students that went," said Wilson. "The little kids are asking when they get to go to Spain."
Wilson quoted a saying by Miriam Beard, who said, " Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on deep and permanent in the ideas of living."
"That sums it up for me," Wilson said.