Students visit D.C., New York over Spring break

Here they’re seen at the Iwo Jima Memorial.Photos provided by Michelle Olszewski

Here they’re seen at the Iwo Jima Memorial.Photos provided by Michelle Olszewski

Canyon Lake Middle School and Lake Elsinore High School partnered up over spring break to visit Washington D.C. and New York with the Worldstrides Discover Now Program. They traveled from March 29 to April 2.

Dawna Gatrost, who teaches 7th grade Language Arts, Social Studies and the AVID program at CLMS, put the trip together to make the most of the five days.

There were 21 8th graders from Canyon Lake Middle School, 11 high school students from Lake Elsinore High and six adult advisors/chaperones.

The journey started at 4:45 a.m. with a shuttle bus to San Diego International Airport and a flight into Baltimore International Airport. From there, the group boarded a tour bus and headed straight to Washington D.C. to begin a tour of the nation’s capital for the next three days.

While at the airport, CLMS staff member Martin Amador met a woman who inquired about the group’s destination. After learning they would be seeing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, she gave them a card with her husband’s picture on it and asked them to look him up on the Wall.

“We all felt very fortunate to have met her and that we could pay our respects to her husband who died fighting for our country,” says parent chaperone Michelle Olszewski.

Along with seeing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the group visited the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, FDR Memorial, Smithsonian Institution, Washington Monument, Mount Vernon, Ford’s Theater, White House (picture stop only), Capitol Building, World War II Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial and the Pentagon Memorial.

At Arlington National Cemetery, they watched the Changing of the Guard and visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where three CLMS 8th graders laid a wreath in front of the Tomb during a special ceremony.

On April 1, the group boarded a tour bus from Washington D.C. and drove five hours to New York City. They visited Rockefeller Center, the world’s largest privately-owned business and entertainment complex, where they took a tour to “The Top of the Rock” for views of NYC.

They took a walk down Fifth Avenue and saw FAO Schwarz Toy Store and Tiffany & Co. They walked into Central Park and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. They took the ferry from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty and visited Ellis Island and the museum that commemorates one of the primary gateways into America for millions of immigrants.

Michelle says visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum “was very emotional and a reminder that we should never forget the lives that were lost that day.”

A theatrical highlight of the trip was seeing “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theater on Broadway. After the show, they walked to Times Square, where Michelle says the kids were amazed by the crowds, skyscrapers and noise of New York City.

She concludes, “Overall, we had great weather on our entire trip and learned so much about the history of our country.”

The Canyon Lake 8th grade students on the trip were Anna Avila, Dakoda Chavez, Clay Clifton, Eric De La Cruz, Gisella Decaro, Brandon Fuentes, Connor Felt, Joseph Jones, Jonathon Kennedy, Jessica Minick, Savannah Olszewski, Casey Perkins, Jacob Ruggles, Garret Schoelen, Hannah Scott, Simon Shokry, Tallinn Tiideberg, Tristan Tiideberg, Jannel Rose Vidal, Jason Walker and Rebekah Woody.

Adults from CLMS were teachers Dawna Gatrost and Donna Wells, staff member Martin Amador and parent chaperone Michelle Olszewski.

The Lake Elsinore High School students on the trip were Marcella Alvarez, Amanda Baker, Amy Bigelow, Czarina Chavez, Priscilla Covaribias, Isabella Garcia, Emma Garret, Rose Heim, Vanessa ValVerde, Victoria ValVerde and Patrick Wells. History teachers Darren Wiseman and Tracy Jefferson served as advisors/chaperones.


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Donna Ritchie