Students thinking about D.C.

Students will beg their parents for money, brainstorm fundraisers and pick up odd jobs -- all for the chance to spend six days in Washington, D.C.

Planning started this week for the trip, which has been held annually for 20 years.

In the past, only seventh- and eighth-graders had the opportunity. Now, parents, grandparents, community members and freshmen are invited.

The caveat? Students need to raise the $1,500 to $1,700 needed to pay for the trip.

"It is very, very expensive, especially for a student, but if you look at what you get, it's not that bad," CMS social studies teacher Courtney Jenison said.

This will be Jenison's third trip to Washington, D.C., and her first as its sponsor.

"I went last year to learn the ropes so I could take over this year," she said.

Jenison first made the trip as an eighth-grade student through the program she now leads.

"Part of the reason is that in Craig, you don't get to see the things that are important to history and government," she said. "Students get to see the things they learn about."

In eighth grade, students study the Constitution and U.S. history.

Jenison likes that she can share her love of travel and be able to introduce students to different cultures.

It's more to them, though, than just seeing sights, Jenison said.

"They get to deal with money, raise money and stay in hotel rooms," she said. "They have to be pretty responsible."

Alex McKey, who went to Washington, D.C., last year said students are too busy to get into trouble.

"After the day is over you're so exhausted you just want to go to bed," he said. "You could stay up all night, but if you miss the bus, that's it."

McKey said the trip is something students should experience.

What he saw doesn't mean as much as what he did. He said the best parts of the trip were going to the Bush Gardens amusement park and staying at a hotel with an indoor water park.

"We had a nice bus driver," he remembered.

They also got to eat at Hard Rock Cafe.

"It was really interesting," he said. "There were a lot of weird people. It's bigger, and there's a lot more stuff to see. And there's good food."

He'd like to go again but doesn't think his parents would pay for a second trip.

The cost is what deters many students from taking advantage of the opportunity, Jenison said.

Students signed up for the trip used to work together on fundraisers, but now each is on their own. Jenison said she has some fundraising ideas she'll share with those interested.

She'd like to see students focus on service-oriented projects -- mowing lawns and raking leaves.

Freshman were allowed to take the trip last year because it wasn't offered one year while they were in middle school. Jenison decided to leave it that way.

"It helps having older kids on the trip," she said. "It really raises the maturity level."

Community members are also invited to participate.

"You will never get a trip like this," she said.

Community members who go aren't considered chaperones. They're not responsible for the students, they're there simply to enjoy themselves, Jenison said.

The $1,700 price for adults allows them their own hotel rooms and is all inclusive.

On this year's itinerary are a visit to the White House, the Capital Building, the National Archives and stops at the Vietnam, Korean War and World War II memorials. Participants will get to see the Holocaust Museum, stay two nights at Great Wolf Lodge and see the play "Sheer Madness."

It's an action-packed week, Jenison said.

"We keep the kids so busy there's never time for behavior problems," she said. "In six days we do more than they probably do all summer."

Jenison said she's got a lot of interest in this year's trip, but the price is daunting to some students. She invites community members or businesses who can help to call her at 824-3289. Also, those who have odd jobs students can do to raise funds can call her.

Participants will leave June 4 and return June 9.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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