Local high school juniors begin preparing for trip of a lifetime

Local high school juniors begin preparing for trip of a lifetime
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
One of the most important, but often overlooked, facets of the Union City Rotary Club all-expense-paid 12-day trip to Europe is the unique bond the experience creates among the eight to 10 high school juniors selected for the adventure each year.
Eight such students — Matthew Kegan Tittle, Allison Wicker and Lindsay Castellaw, all from Obion County Central High School; Zack Vaughn from South Fulton High School; and Garrett Ransom, Grant Ransom, Macie Britt and Destiny Powers, all from Union City High School — are beginning the experience this week.
The travelers were notified of their selection while they waited to be “interviewed” for the second time at Friday’s Union City Rotary Club meeting. The event was planned as a surprise way to announce the happy news, according to Rotarian and trip selection committee member Dr. Leland Davis.
The students began the process which led to their arrival at the Rotary Club meeting as part of the 44 Class of 2013 members from the three high schools who attended an orientation session with their parents, submitted applications and financial information and completed an interview session with the Rotary Club trip selection committee two months ago.
Only students who could not otherwise afford the trip are considered for the opportunity, which is in its fourth year.
The students will be repeating the itinerary provided by Cosmos Travel Co. through Travel One in Union City. Labeled “From St. Paul’s to St. Peter’s,” the trip will include two nights each in London, Paris, Lucerne and Rome, with some other single-night stops in between and the chance to enjoy an amazing view of the world at no expense to the students. They will be chaperoned by David and Mary Hellen Johnson, who made the same trip in 2011 with nine students from the three schools. Mrs. Johnson is a Union City Middle School teacher.
Chaperones can attest to the unique bond that forms within the group better than any other adults. The Johnsons form their own special relationships, too, with each student during the course of preparation, which is extensive.
Time spent together began Monday night when the Johnsons invited the eight young people to their home for a get-acquainted dinner. At that meeting, they received the forms they will need to apply for passports, discussed the importance of having parental consent forms for the trip turned in, double-checked names and birth dates so the travel agency can make their reservations and set up a schedule of “classes” the students will take part in between now and the time they depart on June 26.
During those class times, students will share research they have completed on an individual basis about the places they will visit and will spend time with experts in a variety of topics related to their trip. Before they leave home, they will have already gained quite an education in art, architecture, handling foreign currency, travel safety, packing tips, history, culture, language and customs of countries they will visit and the necessity for allotting time and funds available to take in as much as possible on their journey.
2012 Travelers
Grant Russom and his twin, Garrett, are juniors at UCHS.  They are the sons of Cheryl Ransom of Troy and David Ransom of the Shawtown community.
Grant is a member of the UCHS Golden Tornado marching band, the Science Club, the Key Club and Beta Club. His main focus is Italy — where he wants to learn as much as possible of Venice and Rome.
“I want to experience new cultures and people and learn about and see historical places first hand,” he says, adding that his first thought when he realized he had been selected was all the places he would be visiting and the people who would be going with him.
Garrett, whose future plans include studying medicine or some scientific field, is also very interested in Italy, but Switzerland beckons him, too.
“The scenic landscape and countryside that both countries have to offer,” is the attraction for him, he says.
As for his initial reaction to the exciting news: “I was just struck with disbelief and it took a while to realize what had just happened. I thought for sure we were just semi-finalists, as we were led to believe, and I thought there was no way my brother and I were both going to be able to go. I want to experience the ‘esprit de corps’ and friendships this trip has to offer.”
Garrett is a member of the UCHS band, Key Club, Beta Club and Future Business Leaders of America. He is also a member of Faithway Baptist Church in Troy.
Zack Vaughn, the son of Mark and Lisa Vaughn of South Fulton, is a member of Beta Club at SFHS and is also on the football and baseball teams. He is a class officer and member of South Fulton Baptist Church.
His future plans include attending the University of Tennessee at Martin to prepare for a career as an athletic trainer.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m actually going to Europe,’” he says in recalling Friday’s excitement. “I applied for this trip because it is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go over to Europe and learn about qualities I can bring back home that will help me be a leader in my school and my community. The thing I’m looking forward to is going snow-tubing down the Swiss Alps.”
That particular activity is one the students who attended the mandatory orientation session for the trip got an up-close view of as members of the 2011 trip group shared their experiences a few weeks ago.
Matthew Kegan Tittle is looking forward to meeting new people and experiencing the culture of countries outside his own.
That opportunity will come not only as the students explore the countries they visit, but also as they get to know their fellow-travelers from around the world who are part of their tour bus. Cosmos caters to English-speaking travelers and usually has a bus “stocked” with passengers in a wide range of age groups from the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as other countries.
The local Rotary Club travelers, however, have always stood out in the crowd, not only because of the uniqueness of their travel opportunity but because of the wholesome, thoughtful and mannerly way they represent their community.
Tittle is the son of Robbie Tittle and Dwight Tittle and lives in Troy, where he attends OCCHS. He is a member of Beta Club and Key Club and is an officer in Health Occupation Students of America. He is a volunteer at the local hospital and in other community activities and plans to study law at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, with the goal of becoming a nationally-acclaimed attorney.
“I have always wanted to experience another country’s culture and it is has been my dream to travel to Switzerland since I was a small child. It took about two minutes to sink in (the news that he had been selected) and then my constant nervous smiling turned into tremendously over-excited smiling,” Tittle says.
UCHS junior Destiny Powers of Union City is the daughter of Amanda Macklin and the granddaughter of Martha Wilson, who is her guardian. She plans to begin her college education at a near-by college — most likely UTM — and then go on to prepare for a career in veterinary medicine with a master’s degree and a doctorate.
“My friends told me about the trip and I’ve always been interested in Europe, so when there was a chance of going, I took it. I’m looking forward to Italy and Switzerland — mostly Italy because the place is so amazing,” she says.
“My first reaction was, ‘Me? Really? OMGGG, I’m so excited and happy.’”
Miss Powers is a member of Key Club and is involved in the UCHS band and the track and field team. She attends Sunswept Baptist Church.
Macie Linn Britt, the daughter of Paula Britt and of Keith and Pam Britt, all of Union City, also attends UCHS and is a member of the band. She is also involved with Skills USA and Family, Careers and Community Leaders of America.
Her future plans center around preparing for a career in nursing, with studies at a four-year college.
“This opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I have always wanted to travel the world and see all its wonders. It’s the most amazing thing,” she says. “I knew if I were chosen, it would alter my perspective on so many things and give me a better understanding of all the opportunities I have and my freedoms.”
“When they first announced we were chosen, my mind was racing, my first thought was, ‘What? Me? I was chosen?’ I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy and words could not describe how amazing it felt to be told that, out of so many good candidates, we were the eight chosen to embark on this adventure.
“I am looking forward to meeting my new group members and experiencing this trip with them. I am also looking forward to all of the cultures we are going to encounter, to see how other people across the globe live and its vast difference from our life styles here in America.”
Lindsay Castellaw lives in Rives and is a junior at OCCHS. She is the daughter of Nan Castellaw and the late John Castellaw.
“I heard about the Europe trip through Union City Rotary Club through the guidance office at my school. I decided to apply because I have always loved to travel and I enjoy meeting new people, but a trip to Europe is an experience my family wouldn’t be able to fund. I know the trip is a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about the world and different cultures,” she says.
At home, Miss Castellaw is a member of the OCCHS tennis and lady soccer teams and is part of the OCCHS Academic Decathlon team. She is a member of the Mt. Ararat Cumberland Presbyterian Church youth group and plans to attend college — hopefully the University of Memphis — and study engineering or business.
“Is this for real?” was the first thing she says she thought when the Rotary Club announcement was made Friday. “I was under the impression that I had come to the Hampton Center for another interview. When Rotary surprised us with the news, I was shocked and extremely happy. I am most excited to see the Alps between France and Switzerland. I can’t imagine how breathtaking and majestic the sights will be.”
 Allison Wicker is the daughter of Brennan and Melinda Wicker of Union City and attends OCCHS. She is a member of Woodland Mills First Baptist Church and is an OCCHS varsity cheerleader and member of Beta Club and National Honor Society. She is also a 2011 graduate of Youth Leadership Obion County.
The future pharmacist plans to major in chemistry in college and says the thing she looks forward to most is getting to know everyone else on the trip and sharing incredible memories that will last a lifetime.
“I’ve always dreamed of being able to visit other countries and learn about their cultures, and this is such an amazing opportunity,” she says. As for Friday’s announcement, she recalls: “Since I thought I was going in for a second interview, I was completely surprised. Then it was ‘Wow. This is a dream come true.’
Once the students embark on their journey in late June, they will be in contact with The Messenger and will issue daily reports on their discoveries and experiences, as have the students who have lived the adventure the past three summers. Then they will become ambassadors for the Union City Rotary Club European trip for students who will follow in their footsteps. And, hopefully, they will find their world changed forever in the best possible way as its horizons shift, thanks to generous patrons who want to send this community’s future forward.
Published in The Messenger 1.18.12

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