TICONDEROGA - Aloha!
A group of Ticonderoga Middle School students have spent their winter break in Hawaii as part of a College For Every Student exchange program.
Rachel Bennett, Kolby Bradford, Claire Burns, Lillith Ida and Dale Quesnel made the trip along with teacher Heather York and Principal Bruce Tubbs. They are scheduled to return home Feb. 28.
"I'm looking forward to warm weather and meeting new friends," Bradford said before leaving. "It's going to be great."
Each student has a different goal for the Hawaiian adventure.
Ida hopes to learn the hula dance; Burns wants to see the tropical environment; Bennett is excited to meet her pen pal; Quesnel wants to visit Pearl Harbor.
The Hawaiian adventure has been six years in the making, Tubbs explained. That's when a group of Hawaiian educators attended a CFES conference in Bolton Landing and developed a relationship with their Ticonderoga counterparts. "We thought it would be great if our kids could communicate," Tubbs said. "So, we started a pen pal program."
Then, three years ago, students from Sanford Middle School and Castle High School in suburban Honolulu attended the annual CFES conference, making a side trip to Ticonderoga to meet their pen pals.
"That really got the ball rolling," Tubbs said.
Soon students from Ti and Hawaii were instant messaging and eventually started video conferencing. The next step became obvious; Ti students would make the trip to visit their friends in Hawaii.
But who would go? The $6,000 trip is being funded through CFES and student fundraising activities, Tubbs said. No tax money is being used. That meant only five of the 35 students in Ticonderoga's eighth grade could make the trip.
Ti school officials decided to hold an essay contest to select the lucky students.
Students were asked to explain how they would represent Ticonderoga, what they expected to gain from the trip and what they would bring back to share with classmates. Names were removed from the essays and the winners were selected by a panel not associated with the middle school.
"I think we got a real cross section of kids," Tubbs said. "That's what we wanted. We want our group to be representative of Ticonderoga."
While students will have an opportunity to enjoy the sun and beach in Hawaii, they are also taking part in educational activities.
They are staying in a college dorm and attended Stanford Middle School in the morning and took field trips in the afternoon. The Ti students also took part in Hawaii culture immerson program, did a community service project and visited two colleges.
Ticonderoga Middle School is the first mainland school in CFES to make the Hawaii trip.
"Here's a chance for our students, those who go and those who learn about it when we get home, to experience something new," Tubbs said.
York said she's fortunate to be on the excursion.
"I'm very lucky," the teacher said. "I'm looking forward to visiting Hawaii and spending time with this group of students. I'm really excited about the opportunity."
College For Every Student is a non-profit organization committed to raising the academic aspirations and performance of under-served youth so that they can prepare for, gain access to and succeed in college.