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Sedalia 200 students explore nation’s capital

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Some Sedalia 200 students got to see their history books come to life during a trip to Washington, D.C., led by Smith-Cotton Junior High social studies teacher Lori Hurt.

This was the second time in the past three years that Hurt has taken eighth graders to the nation’s capital to tour the National Mall monuments, visit Arlington National Cemetery, experience Mount Vernon and more. She took about 20 students in June 2019, but the 2020 trip was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic. Four of the students who went this year, including Anna Goodrich, were scheduled to go on the 2020 trip.

“I knew I would not be able to do that on my own,” Goodrich said. “Having a tour guide through everything made it so stress-free and easy. I don’t think I would have had the energy to do that by myself.”

The three-day, two-night trip is organized through WorldStrides. The tour service uses a charter bus to transport the group to the historical sites, with a guide helping provide background and context. Among the experiences for the students was witnessing the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery.

“It was the only time on the trip that the kids were completely quiet,” Hurt said.

Molly Miner, who will be a freshman next school year, said her favorite stop was Mount Vernon, the historic home of President George Washington.

“It was so pretty. It was easier to navigate than I thought it would be and we just had a lot of fun,” she said, adding that it was among the tour experiences that brought the nation’s history to life.

“A lot of the time when we learn about people in history they seem so far away, but if you go to Lincoln’s cottage or Mount Vernon you can you can really see who these historical figures were as people,” Miner said. 

Next year’s trip is already in the planning stages for June 4-6, 2022, with about a dozen students signed up so far. While previous trips have had about 20 students participating, Hurt said there is no limit. She gets fellow teachers and adult family members of students on the trip to help with chaperone duties. The D.C. tour costs between $1,600 and $1,800 per person, which Hurt admits can bring some sticker shock to families.

“It sounds like a lot, but that literally pays for everything: airfare, the charter bus, a bus to and from the airport, hotel, all of their meals while we are there,” Hurt said. “We see a lot in those three days.”

To pay for the trip, families coordinate fundraisers and WorldStrides has a fundraising option that does not require selling anything. Students also can apply for scholarships and make payments from the time they sign up until even after the trip has been completed.

“The sooner you sign up, the easier it is financially,” Hurt said, noting that during this year’s trip, students paid out of pocket for only souvenirs and ice cream on the last day.

Along with Goodrich and Miner, other students on this year’s trip were Eden Hoeffling, Emma Gray, Emili Boston, Lindi Foster, Logan Grotzinger, Sienna Blaisdell, Eliza Cavanagh, Damian Parker, Masyn Kruse, Jackson Bates, Madalyne Lee, Kaylina Iracheta, Matias Hernandez, William Tate, Madison Phillips, Jackson Sparks, Alice Snyder and Parker Harris. Goodrich found the trip to be quite meaningful and encouraged students to consider it.

“It’s a lifetime experience that you would miss out on if you didn’t do it,” she said. “You get a lot of emotions from just being there and seeing things that you wouldn’t see if you stayed here in Missouri. You might see it on TV or in class but seeing it in real life was eye-opening.”

Hurt said the majority of students who have gone with her have never flown before.

“This is something that the kids absolutely love and I’m so glad we were able to go again,” she said. “I just like giving them this opportunity to travel and get a little bit of freedom. I was very nervous about starting this program ... After my first year, I decided I never want to stop doing it.”

For information about the Smith-Cotton Junior High WorldStrides trip to Washington, D.C., including opportunities to sponsor students, contact Hurt at hurtl@sedalia200.org.

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