About the Author: This is a guest post by Steven Nicom, a Middle School History and Bible teacher at the Santiago Christian School in the Dominican Republic. Nicom is also the LIT Advisor, Class Advisor, S.E.R.T. Member, and Sound Tech Advisor at the school.
Situated in Santiago Dominican Republic, Santiago Christian School serves over 650 students. In the 8th grade US history class, our students are exposed to the foundations that the United States is built on. Their middle school experience culminates with a capstone field trip to Washington D.C. The days were long, Miguel Blasco a student on the trip said “Santiago Christian school had an amazing itinerary, allowing us to get to know as many museums as possible.” This included marathon days packed with monuments, museums and meetings with politicians and veterans. Students have been looking forward to this trip since last year. Said one student Maria Nunez “Since the moment that we were told that our school trip was destined to Washington D.C., we eagerly waited for months and months until we saw ourselves in the airport at five thirty in the morning ready to catch our plane.”
Every aspect of our trip from our tour guide to our driver helped make the experience wonderful for our students. When asked about them Maria said “Sarge (Driver) was amazing. He shared with us deep, personal stories about his military life, and it made us feel as if we’d known him since forever. Antonia (tour guide) always had a heartwarming smile on her face…She showed us kindness, hospitality, patience, and her sense of adventure made us more excited every day.”
As a teacher I don’t know that I could have planned for better experiences for my students. We had many unplanned run ins with veterans from wars dating back to World War II. Most of my students knew very little US history prior to this year and most would never have opportunities to see the real people that serve in the US. One student had some incredible encounters with the veterans we met along the way.
“Our trip to Washington DC was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was star-struck the second I saw the Washington Monument from my airplane window, and saw the city from the sky. Every single second I was there, it felt like I was breathing history. We went to many of the Smithsonian Museums, like the Udvar-Hazy, the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History and the National Zoo. When we visited these museums, I was overwhelmed by a sense of amazement and astonishment. But of all the museums we visited, I think that the Holocaust Museum impacted me the most. I was horrified by the way the Nazis would treat the Jews like animals. When watching the videos of the dead men and woman being dragged away like dead pigs, it was truly terrorizing. The fact that all this happened, just because a man thought he was better than the others, that chilled me to the bones.”
We also traveled to Arlington Cemetery. There I was, to say the least, amazed at the changing of the Guard. It was truly remarkable how they did everything flawlessly, how they have every single step calculated to perfection. Given the opportunity to see John F. Kennedy’s grave gave me an indescribable feeling of pride and this for a country that I’m not even a citzen of. That day we also went to the Air Force Memorial. This was without a doubt a heartening and uplifting experience. While there we met many Vietnam, Korea and World War 2 veterans who were part of an Honor flight. As I shook hands with these men, all I could think about is how I was shaking hands with actual heroes. These men were willing to give up their lives for their country. I love reading books about heroes and how they save the world, but for the first time, I was actually meeting these heroes.
In the end, what impacted me the most of the whole trip, was our visit to the Vietnam Wall. There were six hundred Vietnam War veterans there…I was awe-struck to say the least. What I felt in the Air Force Memorial was nothing compared to this. I did my best to shake the hands of as many veterans of possible. I was shocked at how kind these men were because I was expecting them to be hardened by the war, but instead they were some of the kindest and soft-hearted men I had met in my entire life. These were selfless, brave and noble men, who fought for what they believed in. Before we left the Vietnam Wall, I shook hands with the last veteran and I welcomed him home. He broke down into tears, thanked me and hugged me. When the man left, I remember that I was shaking. As I looked into my teacher’s eyes, I could feel my hands and legs shaking. While we were returning to our group, I could barely walk, my legs were shaking too much. I tried to stop my hands from shaking, but to no avail.
From the very start to the very end, I can say that this trip was the most inspiring and one of the best trips in my entire life.” – Andrea Batlle 8th Grade student.
This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity for my students to see history up close. I could not have asked for a better partner in educating my students than with Scholastica. When finished, Miguel said “The trip brought us closer as a class. Having to live together for a week, made us understand that no matter what, we are united as a class. It was an honor being able to experience and understand what happened in the history of the US. As a class we greatly appreciate the opportunity we had, and it’s a trip we will forever have in our hearts.” Ending the experiences is always hard and the student and especially chaperones are exhausted, but in the end vale la pena (it was worth it) as they say in Spanish. Maria wrote “I’m not going to lie, the trip was intense, but totally worth it. Now, it has become part of our memories, but Washington DC will forever live in our hearts.
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