By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
Two new chaperones. Ten new student travelers.
They’ll be taking to the air, water and highways together next summer, thanks to the Union City Rotary Club’s annual European travel opportunity for local students entering their senior year of high school.
The names of students selected to make the all-expense-paid trip to cities such as London, Paris, Switzerland’s Lucerne and Rome were announced at Friday’s Rotary Club meeting. They include Cody Robertson, Marley Speed, Jackie Hudson, Brianna Hammond and Justice Walker from Union City High School; Whitney Johnson from South Fulton High School; and Macey McKenzie, Nicole Storey, Erin Chappell and Laina Roberson from Obion County Central High School.
The group will be accompanied by Union City Elementary School teacher Jennifer Bruff and her husband, Tracy, when they leave Union City on the morning of June 25, bound for a pair of flights that will take them to London for the start of their amazing adventure.
The students will be the fifth group to enjoy such an opportunity since the Rotary Club expressed an interest in funding such a possibility for learning on a variety of levels.
Before they leave home, however, they will have already invested a great deal of themselves in preparation for the trip.
Following Friday’s announcement of their selection, the group began to make plans for the first of several study sessions they will take part in over the next few months.
During these sessions with the chaperones, they will also meet some other local residents who will help prepare them for the adventure through the classes. The focus will be on presenting research each student will be expected to do to become familiar with the areas they are going to visit; making specific plans for sites the group will want to take in and determining the educational value of those sites; becoming familiar with the three types of foreign currency — the British pound, the Swiss franc and the euro for the rest of the journey — they will be using; recognizing a few basic words in the foreign languages they will encounter; getting up to speed on packing tips, navigating security in airports and practicing safety in travel; learning something about the customs they will encounter and the good manners they should display in foreign countries; and gaining an appreciation of the historical sites, architecture and art they will enjoy on the trip.
A ‘sainted’ opportunity
The local travel group will be following in the footsteps of four such groups who have gone before and will be enjoying an itinerary almost identical to the one the last three groups have undertaken.
Their journey will take shape under the guidance of Cosmos travel company, with arrangements made through Travel One in Union City. The Cosmos tour, identified as “From St. Paul’s to St. Peters,” begins in London, where local students historically have enjoyed a visit to the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral. After two days in London, during which time the group may elect to plot their own agenda or to take advantage of short in-city tours provided by Cosmos, they will be ready to move on. A Cosmos bus, staffed with a driver and tour guide, plus some 35 additional tourists from around the world, will be their means of transportation as they continue to Paris for another two-day adventure and then move into Switzerland. Lucerne is usually a favorite two-night stopover for the group, who will then cross into Italy and make several more visits to famous locations, ending up in Rome with a chance to visit St. Peter’s and the Vatican, among other famous locations.
Along the way, students may decide to shop for souvenirs or grab some extra snacks with their own funds, but all travel basics will be covered for the group of 12 travelers with a $60,000 travel fund provided by the local Rotary Club. That organization will even cover the cost of passports, travel journals, identical backpacks for carry-on luggage, distinctive shirts sporting the Rotary Club emblem to be worn as the students travel by air and special security pouches for storing travel documents, identification and currency and the special debit cards that will be issued to each student as they depart.
The debit cards, courtesy of First State Bank, will allow students and their chaperones to access funds they need to cover each day’s expenses as they move from country to country. Budgeting and making the necessary currency conversions is considered a valuable part of the learning experience the students will undergo on the trip, organizers say.
Students will not be allowed to take communication devices with them on the trip, but the chaperones will be equipped with a cell phone, courtesy of Wood Communications, and students will take turns using that contact to speak to a member of their family each evening. The parents who receive the phone call each day will then alert the families of other students about the adventures their children have been taking part in.
Transportation to the airport to begin and end the adventure will be provided by Union City School System.
Students will be expected to keep travel journals and to take part in creating a technological presentation of the journey to share with the Rotary Club, students interested in applying for the trip next year and other individuals or groups who are curious about the program.
Students selected for the trip made it to the final cut after attending one of two orientation sessions with a parent or guardian to learn all they could about the opportunity. They received application packets at these sessions and had only a few days to complete them and submit them to their high school guidance counselors, who passed the information on to members of the Rotary Club trip selection committee.
Members of this committee then conducted interviews with each applicant and narrowed the field to the 10 high school juniors who will join an elite group of young adults who have benefited from the opportunity in the past few years.
Making the trip next summer as representatives of UCHS will be Cory Robertson, the son of Steve and Lisa Robertson of Union City. He is a member of Beta Club and Key Club, is a member of the UCHS marching band and the Obion County Teen Advisory Board and hopes to attend college at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“I wanted the unforgettable opportunity to experience the many traditions, architecture and cuisines that others take as the norm,” Robertson says, adding that he is most looking forward to the possibility that the group will be able to tour the Palace of Versailles near Paris.
“I was excited beyond belief and extremely grateful to the Rotary Club, even though the weight of what I was chosen for was still sinking in,” he says of his initial reaction to learning he had been selected for the trip.
Miss Speed, a member of the UCHS marching band, Science Club, Future Business Leaders of America and the youth group at Union City Cumberland Presbyterian Church, is the daughter of Shaw and Jacenta Speed of Union City.
Her future plans include majoring in psychology as a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and becoming a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
“I’ve dreamed about going to Europe my entire life. This trip was the opportunity of a lifetime,” she says. That dream includes visiting Rome, one of the oldest cities in the world, as a high point.
“I was basically shocked,” Miss Speed says of her initial reaction to the news that she would be making the trip. “There were a million things running through my mind. I suppose I first thought, ‘Wow, I’m really going to Europe.’”
Miss Hudson, daughter of Delores Hudson of Union City, is part of the UCHS basketball team. She is also a member of Beta Club and Science Club and is involved in track and field competition in school. She is a member of Crosswind Church and is planning to earn a degree in nursing.
“I see it as a chance to see what’s really out there in the world and to have the opportunity to adventure something new.”
Meeting new people and exploring new cultures are the things Miss Hudson, who admits her first reaction to the news was to wonder if she was dreaming, says she is looking forward to most.
Miss Hammond, whose parents are Greg Hammond and Krystal Hammond of Union City, says her initial response to learning about her selection was, “Oh, my gosh. It’s actually happening. I can’t believe it.”
She says she is looking forward to going to London. “It’s a great city and I’m excited about getting to experience the sights and sounds. I’ve always wanted to go to Europe and I thought that trying for the Rotary trip would be the best way to go and bring back my experience to share with others.”
Miss Hammond is a member of the marching band and the UCHS Beta Club and Science Club. She also takes part in New Beginnings Youth Choir at Union City Second Baptist Church.
Walker, who addressed the club at the request of a member of the trip selection committee, sharing his response to one of the interview questions, is a member of the UCHS football team, the band and the Spanish Club and is a Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader. He is the son of Shelly Watson of Union City and is a member of Brown Chapel AME Church.
He is excited about the prospect of seeing the Sistine Chapel and says his first reaction at the news of his selection was, “Thank God.”
“I thought this would be a great opportunity to explore the world and what it has to offer and get out of my comfort shell.”
He hopes to attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, majoring in pre-med studies, and then going on to UT medical school in Memphis.
Miss McKenzie is the daughter of Mike and Sharrie McKenzie of Troy. She is a member of both the OCCHS basketball and softball teams, as well as Beta Club. She is also part of the Junior Auxiliary of Obion County Crown Club and is a member of Troy First Baptist Church. She plans to attend Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and major in pediatric dentistry.
She says she is looking forward to experiencing the food, cultures and people in the countries the students will be visiting.
“I’ve dreamed of traveling the world as a little girl and I am interested in other countries, their cultures and their people. My first thought when I realized I had been chosen was, ‘Don’t cry, please don’t cry.’ This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am very grateful.”
Miss Roberson, the daughter of Guy Roberson and Cathy Roberson of Troy, is a member of Living Word Church in Troy. At OCCHS, she is part of the Lady Rebel soccer team and is a member of Students Against Destructive Decisions. She is also treasurer of Skills USA.
She plans to attend college and earn either a forensic science or criminal justice degree.
“I decided to apply for the trip to make memories and new friends that will last a lifetime. The first thing I thought when I realized (I had been chosen) is I needed to close my mouth and blink. I was very grateful that I had been chosen.”
She anticipates trying real European and Italian food, hearing different European accents and, over all, making memories that will stay with her forever.
Miss Chappell, whose parents are Stephanie Price of Rives and Matt Chappell of Union City, is a member of Health Occupation Students of America, Beta Club and the OCCHS soccer team and is a volunteer. She is also a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Union City.
She plans to major in the medical field in college and wants to travel the world and experience all the cultures.
“Going to Rome, meeting new friends and experiencing all the world has to offer,” is what she looks forward to most. She says she felt so fortunate to have been chosen and that people were nice enough to offer the trip.
Miss Storey, the daughter of Ronnie and Linda Storey of Union City, is active in the OCCHS cross country and track and field teams and is a member of HOSA and FCA. She is also a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
With a goal of attending college to prepare for a career in the medical field, she says she is looking forward to seeing and learning about all the countries the group will visit.
Her initial reaction to her selection? “I am going to Europe. My dream of traveling the world has finally come true and I’m very thankful to have been chosen to go.”
She says she decided to apply for the trip because she loved the thought of exploring new cultures and learning more about how other people live.
Miss Johnson’s parents are Kevin and Leigh Ann Burden of South Fulton. She is a member of Beta Club, Future Business Leaders of America and the track team at SFHS.
“Getting to see other cultures is an opportunity of a lifetime and I would not want to let that opportunity pass me by without giving it my best shot to make it possible. I am most looking forward to visiting Venice. I cannot wait to see the canals and waterways,” she says.
In addition to her initial excitement at learning of her selection, she says she was immediately grateful and honored. “A rush of emotions just came over me and all I could think was, ‘Thank you, Rotary Club.’”
The Messenger will provide daily coverage of the students’ trip next summer, and will feature photos of their travels once they return.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.3.12