Thirteen students participated in the trip, which was sponsored by the GCHS History Club and led by history teacher Hal Adams and chaperones Libby Vaccaro and Sue Dalton. They flew from Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C., where they spent the next four days walking through the city and learning about the government. The group also visited Arlington National Cemetery, numerous memorials, and toured several of the Smithsonian museums and the National Holocaust Museum.
“I honestly think this is the best thing I do for my kids in high school,” said Adams. “I think they learn more on this trip than they get out of the classroom ... I think it’s the best thing they can do in high school.”
While in the nation’s capital, the group also met with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky before touring the U.S. Capitol building and watching the U.S. Senate vote on the new federal budget. The students also explored the city in smaller groups, visiting a variety of attractions including the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives, which houses the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
From Washington, D.C., the group headed by train to Philadelphia for a seven-hour stop. Despite inclement weather, the students visited the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin’s printing shop, and Christ Church.
The group then headed to their last stop on the tour – New York City. They took a ferry to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty, which has been closed since Hurricane Sandy destroyed the historic island’s docks. During the next several days, the students explored the city, visiting a variety of famous landmarks, including the Ground Zero Memorial, Wall Street, the Federal Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity Church, and the gravesite of Alexander Hamilton, one of the country’s founding fathers. The group also visited Times Square, the top of the Empire State Building, and Highline Park and Central Park. They also saw the Broadway production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” and several students met the show’s lead performer.
The group returned to Moab on March 28.
Tiffanie Whipple and Jacob Francis were the only two juniors on the trip. The remaining 11 students were all seniors: Jake Horne, Wesley Rodda, Kris Kemp, Kamron Call, Madie Camps, Torrie Lopez, Nikysha Harmison, Sarah Quigley, Jordan Dolphin, Mary Rice and Morgan Dalton. The students paid for the trip themselves, which included everything from airfare to hotels to transportation fees and tickets to events. The group spent nearly a full year fundraising for the trip by running concessions at school and community events, selling tickets to community dinners, and soliciting local businesses for donations.
“We really let them have a lot of freedom on this trip because it really is their trip: they’ve paid for it and they get a say,” Adams said. “We talk about what we’re going to do and where we’re going to go and let them make most of the decisions, because you don’t get anything out of it if you’re just being dragged somewhere that you don’t want to go, and so they get a say and they’ve earned their independence and choice here.”
Members of the GCHS History Club thanked the local businesses and families who helped make the trip possible, as well as the Grand County Board of Education and the school district office for providing support and encouragement.