Trip to historic East Coast sites being planned

You can read about the nation’s capital, hear what it’s like to be in New York and see photos of historic sites on the East Coast. Or you can go there and experience it for yourself.

That’s what local middle school-age youngsters have been doing since 2006, through School Tours of America. The non-school related event is organized by parents, some of them traveling along on the adventure.

An informational meeting for the 2014 trip will be held at the Homer Middle School library at 7 p.m. Sept. 30.

“We’ll have registration packets and watch a short DVD of the trip from last year so parents can familiarize themselves with what’s going to happen,” said Amber Cabana, who is coordinating the meeting.

Seven-day itineraries for the trip include visits to Colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown Settlement Park; a tour of Washington, D.C., with stops at the Arlington National Cemetery, U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, Library of Congress and the National Archives. There’s a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon homeand time at the Smithsonian Complex and the Lincoln Memorial, Kennedy Center, Iwo Jima Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, the Holocaust Museum, Embassy Row, National Zoo, the National Cathedral, and the FDR, Vietnam Veterans, Korean War and World War II memorials. In New York City, students enjoy a Broadway show of their choosing; take a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and-or Ellis Island; visit Wall Street and Ground Zero; view Chinatown, Little Italy and the Empire State Building Observatory; and pay visits to Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trump Towers and Sak’s Fifth Avenue.

Cabana and her daughter, Tayla, now a Homer High senior, made the trip during Tayla’s eighth-grade year.

“Tayla absolutely loved it and so did I,” said Cabana. “You can have all the classes in the world, but when you go do something like this …  it’s amazing. School Tours of America does a great job.”

The 2013 trip included 14 Homer students and five adults. Knowledgeable tour guides provided by School Tours of America added extra touches. For instance, the guide timed the Arlington National Cemetery stop to coincide with President Barak Obama placing a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

“The (bus) driver was like a historian,” said Roxana Bergt, who accompanied her daughter, Desiree, 14, and brought son Miles, 17, along on the 2013 trip. “She kept all the kids engaged, told them what they were looking at, the history. It was incredible.”

Chris Donich, who accompanied her son, Bryce, 15, on the 2013 trip, agreed.

“She was just amazing,” said Donich. “The history was really so well done. We learned so much and she fit everything in.”

Life in a fast-paced big city is a bit different than in Homer, but the driver helped with that, too.

“She laid out everything, how they were supposed to behave, what they were supposed to do. It was fantastic,” said Bergt.

Round-the-clock security also drew praise from Donich. 

An added bonus for the young travelers was the people met along the way.

“We joined the kids from Nebraska and … they all got email addresses and became good friends,” said Bergt. “They sent each other pictures from their school, what they did, their experiences. It was really something.”

The all-inclusive cost of the trip — airfare, hotel, food and entrance fees — is $3,109 for quad occupancy. Double occupancy is $3,539. Travel money to cover snacks and some spending money also is needed. Fundraising is an option.

“In the past, they have sold Sees candies, sold calendars at Christmas and had bake sales,” said Donich. The 2013 group received $1,000 from the American Legion and $500 from the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary. A minimum of 15 is required. Deadline to register for the 2014 trip is Nov. 4.

“You hate to use a cliché and say it’s a once in a lifetime experience, but it’s pretty darned neat,” said Cabana.

For more information about School Tours of America, visit schooltoursof