NEW YORK CITY - After six years of planning, students in Kathy Kokes' chorus class at Northeastern Clinton Central School finally made their way to the Big Apple.
Numerous fundraising programs were held to raise money for nearly 50 students to take the once-in-a-lifetime trip, which led them to sing at Lincoln Center for Performing Arts and talk with actors from the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, during Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30.
"It was important for me to allow the students to see what it was like out there," explained Kokes. "Because I have so many graduating and especially for the students who are considering a career in the arts."
"The kids really did have a great experience seeing what's out there and getting some reality of what's outside the North Country," she added.
Following the performance at Lincoln Center, the students were able to tour some of the buildings, including The Metropolitan Opera House and Avery Fisher Hall.
"It was really nice for the students to see those for real and be inside them," said Kokes.
After seeing the performance of Phantom of the Opera, Kokes said the students sat down for a private session with four of the actors and a stage manager who has been with the show since the beginning.
"They just answered questions; the kids just fired away," she said. "That was really an educational experience for these kids that they could not get without actually going down there and doing this."
"I can show them all the videos and YouTube things, and I can show them all the books in the world, but that experience right there was something that there's just no way I could get that to the students without bringing them down there," added Kokes.
Upon returning from the trip, Kokes said the students were really excited.
"The Facebook comments were flying and quite a few of the kids said they would like to live there someday," she said. "I'm thinking we're going back in another five years if we can do it."
Kokes said the trip would not have happened without the support of the community.
"On behalf of the students and the families of the students ... I just wanted to thank the community for their support and for coming to the spaghetti dinner and for buying the things that they were selling," she said. "Especially given the economic situation our community is in, for them to come out and support us like that was just overwhelming."