Student TripsWashington D.C.

Chicken Soup for the Tour Group’s Soul


This post was written by Natalie Rice, a tour leader with Scholastica Travel.

The best thing about being a tour leader are the people that you meet while out on the road. You meet people from all walks of life, from the big cities to the very small towns. I’ve met true cowboys, Scottish step-dancers,  college baseball coaches, and amazing educators. I love hearing their stories and learning what drives them to do what they do. Hands-down my favorite people to meet are the students. I want to share one remarkable student’s story with you.

Chris* liked Pokemon. He enjoyed spending time with his family and was excited to visit Washington DC.  Chris wore a bright smile and was ready for an adventure. This was the information that I gathered as I moved through the bus, meeting each student en route to Washington DC. Chris struck me as a friendly and personable student, yet somewhat lacking in friends of his own.

[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]He was inquisitive. “Where are we going first? And then? What about after that? How long until?” First day jitters.[/pullquote]This was his eighth grade trip, a rite of passage for many eighth graders and a capstone on their middle school experience. Chris is from a small town in Ohio. Being from a larger family, this was his first time really traveling beyond family visits. Chris was setting off on an out-of-state trip with three busloads of classmates.

As the hours passed and the highway miles ticked by, the group leader began telling me about the various fundraisers that the students ran to offset the cost of the trip. She beamed, “…and Chris back there? He participated in every single fundraiser that we held. He raised all but $30 of the trip money.”

Wow. At fourteen years old, Chris already possessed an impressive work ethic. He could have easily dismissed the trip, saying that he didn’t have the money or giving other excuses. Instead, he was proactive and self-motivated. He got the job done. Being driven will serve him well throughout his life.

Throughout the trip, Chris continued to smile and be engaged in the sites he was visiting. He often walked towards the front of the line, asking me different questions about history and the sites we were visiting. On the second day, he casually mentioned that he almost wasn’t able to go on the trip because of his grades. His school has behavior and academic requirements that must be met throughout the year in order to go on the trip. “I’m not very good in English class. I have trouble with words,” he said. My heart went out to him. I venture that Chris is a student who struggles academically, but not due to a lack in motivation. Again, his hard work saw him through and he was able to attend. What a remarkable kid.

Then, the hammer came. One afternoon, as the students were exploring the Smithsonian museums with their chaperone groups, I walked along the National Mall with the group leader. We discussed the trip dress code that the school required for the students: long jeans, tennis shoes, and the group T-shirt. The students really did look sharp. She said, ” We had a situation a few weeks ago. Chris’s family’s house burned down. And…they lost everything.” I stopped walking. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. She continued,

After class one day Chris approached me and said, “Mrs. V, about the dress code….I’m not sure what to do, I don’t have any pants left.” We took up a collection among the teachers and got Chris a $200 gift card to WalMart. He was all excited and came back to my desk a few days later and said, “Guess what Mrs. V? We’re going to go buy some pants tonight!”

What caring and incredible teachers. It truly amazes me what teachers do every day for their students. Their selfless dedication is astounding.

The day after the trip, I recounted Chris’s story to my mom and couldn’t hold back tears when talking about the house fire. Hehad worked so very hard the entire year. I pray that I contributed to making this the best trip he ever had.

Chris did enjoy himself as we explored DC. I hope that he returned with many great memories and experiences. He deserves it.

*Name changed

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