Local students take off on European adventure
Posted: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 9:05 pm
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
The next time you’re in a group of high school seniors, ask how many of them have visited London, Paris, Lucerne, Venice and Rome. A few hands might go up, here and there.
Then, ask how many of them made the journey at no expense to themselves or their families.
It’s a safe bet the only students who will be able to answer in the affirmative are those who have been blessed to live in Obion County, where the Union City Rotary Club has sponsored such a trip for 17 students in the summer before their senior year of high school. In 2009, eight Union City High School students were selected by a special Rotary committee to take part in the inaugural journey. The success of that venture can be judged in many ways, but the fact that the club was willing to repeat the offer this summer — and broaden the scope to include an extra student and representatives from not only UCHS but also from Obion County Central and South Fulton high schools — speaks volumes.
Tuesday morning, the nine students and their chaperones — UCHS English teacher Joanna Wisener and her husband, Clark — met at Reelfoot Animal Clinic on West Reelfoot Avenue in Union City, where a UCHS bus waited to transport them to the Memphis airport.
Alton Alexander (OCCHS), Jacob Cleaver (SFHS) and Jasmine Davis, Kassadie Mullins, Cameryn Fishel, Megan Hickman, Chase Bowling, Trey Maddox and Lakevius Turner were easy to spot in the crowd of family and friends who accompanied them to the send-off. Each of them was wearing one of their two new bright gold shirts with the Union City Rotary Club emblem (one for the trip over and another for the trip back), each sported a special tan passport/currency/credit card/airline ticket holder looped around their neck, each one handed off luggage bearing Cosmos Travel tags and multi-colored pompons for easy airport identification and each of them gave last minute attention to digging through their new backpack with the Rotary emblem emblazoned on it to verify they had all immediate necessities — including special travel journals to record their impressions of the trip.
All items setting them apart — not only from the excited crowd milling through the local parking lot and then taking up space a few minutes later at the neighboring Higher Ground Coffee Co., but also from the horde of travelers the students will encounter at the airports they will pass through — were provided as part of their free travel package by Rotary.
Each student also packed a credit/debit card backed by enough Rotary Club money to pay for any meals not covered on the tour, which was arranged locally by Travel One in Union City; to cover the necessary travel expenses within the cities they will be visiting; and to pay for some “extra” events they might want to take part in during their free time. Their airline tickets, passports and tour costs had already been settled by the Rotary Club.
While students had used the months since their selection in November to earn or be “gifted” with some extra “mad” money to spend on commemorative European T-shirts and other memorabilia and gifts for those back home, they would have been able to enjoy the trip in perfect style with nothing more than their Rotary-provided package.
It’s just one more plus for growing up in Obion County, where children and youth reap major benefits from a variety of sources.
Where they’ll go
The big yellow school bus pulled away from the loading zone — where Rotary Club trip committee members Dr. Leland Davis of Reelfoot Animal Hospital and Kevin Herrell of Higher Ground Coffee Co. made them welcome for a grand sendoff — at almost 11 a.m. and headed south to Memphis, where the group of 11 was scheduled to board a flight for Minneapolis-St. Paul at 4:05 p.m. Tuesday. A change of planes awaited them there, and then it was on through a short-night sky to London, where they were to arrive early this morning.
Mrs. Wisener took a moment Tuesday night as she and her husband and their “charges” for the trip prepared to leave the USA through Minnesota and head for Europe to relay a message to folks back home through The Messenger: “Pretty uneventful day traveling. We had a good talk about behavior and reviewed our budget and exchanging our currency. We have planned our days in London. We will start with a big bus tour tomorrow (Wednesday) and the London Eye (one of the world’s largest ferris wheels that was a major hit with the 2009 Rotary tour group, who used it to get a bird’s-eye view of London). Thursday we plan to go to the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the British Museum. As we prepare to board the kids are very excited about the fact that when we get off the plane next, we will be in Europe! We are setting up a system that will put two or three kids “in charge” in each city (other than London) so they will be responsible for helping figure out budget, schedule, transportation, etc.”
Mrs. Wisener’s note underscores several lessons the Rotary trip is intended to teach or reinforce — knowledge of foreign places, exposure to historical sites, wise use of resources, leadership skills and responsible behavior.
The youthful travelers also checked in with family just before boarding the plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. They used the one phone allowed on the trip — a communication device made possible by Wood Communications in Union City. The phone will be in the daily possession of the Wiseners and, once they arrive in Europe, a different student will call home each evening to report on the day’s activities. At a pre-trip picnic Saturday at the home of Rotary Club trip committee member Clay Woods, parents set up a calling tree to enable them to “pass the word” when news is received from abroad. Reports on the trip will also be funneled to The Messenger through the phone and by e-mail where their hotels permit.
This morning, Bernadette Wecker of South Fulton reported her son, Jacob Cleaver, seemed excited about the plans the group had made for London. He assured her everyone was fine and everything was going well and added that the group also hoped to be able to squeeze in a guided bus tour of London and a visit to Kensington Square and Kensington Gardens, which they expected to be within walking distance of their hotel.
On Friday, the Cosmos travel bus will take the group to the English Channel, where they will cross on a large ferry, and that night will be spent in Paris. Then on Sunday it’s on to Lucerne, Switzerland — a favorite of the 2009 student tour group. Come Tuesday, they’ll head for beautiful Lugano, Switzerland, and a lakeside walking tour before crossing the border into Italy. Once there, they will make stops in Verona, Venice, Florence and Pisa, arriving in Rome, the Eternal City, June 25.
Finally, on June 27, it will be home to share their stories in person with family, friends, classmates, Rotary Club, school boards and anyone else who wants to see Europe through the eyes of some of our best ambassadors.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 6.16.10