|Surprise celebration: Local students informed of European tour plans |
|Posted: Monday, January 16, 2012 8:15 pm |
| By GLENDA CAUDLE |
Special Features Editor
When eight juniors from Union City, Obion County Central and South Fulton high schools were asked to attend Friday’s regular Rotary luncheon meeting, they were told the invitation was being extended because members of the club wanted to conduct additional interviews of those students who had expressed an interest in taking part in the 2012 12-day all-expense-paid tour of four European countries.
More than 40 members of the Class of 2013 from the three high schools had previously attended an orientation session about the trip, turned in applications and gone through an interview process.
Allison Wicker, Lindsay Castellaw and Kegan Tittle from OCCHS; Zack Vaughn from SFHS; and Grant Ransom, Garrett Ransom, Destiny Powers and Macie Britt from UCHS dutifully attended the Friday session, however, along with OCCHS principal Linda Crigger, UCHS principal Wes Kennedy and SFHS principal Keith Frazier.
The students were treated to a meal with Rotarians and were also joined by some people with special connections to the Rotary Club travel program, which is in its fourth year of providing the amazing opportunity to explore abroad for junior students who could not otherwise afford the trip.
Mary Hellen Johnson, a Union City Middle School teacher who — along with her husband, David — will be accompanying the 2012 group for a second tour of duty; and Rotarians Clay Woods, Dr. Leland Davis and Kevin Herrell, who were part of the Rotary Club trip selection team, were there to encourage the students, as well.
The real purpose of the students’ summons to appear, however, was revealed soon after the business session began. The students were asked to stand and introduce themselves. Then Davis pretended to be opening a second interview session for the students, who had been told other groups of interested juniors would be brought in for similar meetings during the coming weeks. But the Rotarian then suddenly appeared to reconsider and, instead, asked all Rotarians who would support sending the group of students on hand at the meeting to Europe June 26-July 8 to express their preferences.
Approval was, of course, unanimous.
And reality began to set in. With tears. And smiles. And hugs.
The Rotary Club program began with eight students from Union City High School in the summer of 2009. That first trip was a seven-country marathon, but the 2010 and 2011 trips focused — as will the upcoming trip — on a Cosmos Co. tour arranged through Travel One in Union City that will begin in London. The students will spend two nights there, then travel through the under-the-sea connection to France, where they will have two days in Paris. Then it’s on to Switzerland for two more nights in Lucerne and a crossover into Italy, where several stops are scheduled in various cities. The students and the Johnsons will close out their adventure with two nights in Rome. The trip is listed in the Cosmos travel brochure as “St. Paul’s to St. Peter’s” and students will have some time — though not nearly enough, with all the adventures that await them — to enjoy those historic and world-famous churches in London and Rome, plus hundreds of other interesting sights in between.
As part of their opportunity, they will do extensive preparation in group sessions before they leave. In classes with local travel experts and authorities on a variety of topics, and in the independent study from which they will prepare reports for presentation to the entire travel group, the students will learn about culture, monetary systems, geography, language, foods, travel safety, customs, history, art, architecture and much more. While the travel company will provide opportunities to view many well-known sites in the areas they visit, the students will have the responsibility of researching other points of interest they would like to see, figuring out the amount of time necessary to travel and peruse those sites and determining if the opportunity is one they can afford, based on the “extra” funds the Rotary Club allows the group for such outings and taking into consideration the two foreign monetary systems they will be dealing with.
The club provides $50,000 to cover the following expenses for the students and their chaperones:
• transportation — this includes bus transport to the airport, a connecting flight (usually from Memphis) to another U.S. airport and the overseas flight originating there and all necessary in-city travel not covered by the Cosmos tour, plus all return transportation expenses;
• the Cosmos tour;
• an allowance for meals not covered by the tour;
• an allowance for “extra” sites the students plan to see each day;
• travel journals;
• backpacks to use as carry-on luggage;
• applicable taxes and gratuities;
• travel insurance;
• two distinctive T-shirts with the Rotary emblem for wearing on the plane to help identify the group.
The group and their parents will attend a pre-trip “going away” picnic just before they depart in June and will also attend another Rotary Club meeting. Upon their return, they will be expected to present a video of their adventures to Rotarians and any other interested groups and to take part in orientation sessions with members of the Class of 2014 who want to take part in the 2013 trip.
Rotarians said they were impressed with the students selected and expect them to represent the club and their community in excellent fashion, as has been the case for the three groups who have preceded them.
“These trips are unique, in that students who could not otherwise afford the opportunity get a special view of the world, thanks to Union City Rotary Club,” said Woods. “But it goes beyond that. For the past two years, we’ve broadened the pool of students to include all three high schools in Obion County and we’ve seen amazing relationships built between these students and their chaperones as they enjoy this adventure.”
Profiles of the eight students who will be attending will be featured in The Messenger Tuesday.
Published in The Messenger 1.16.12