On March 16, Lodi Academy embarked on a journey to experience the magic of an East Coast History Tour with 33 juniors and seniors plus 11 adult teachers and chaperones. They visited New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland.

The first day’s challenge was getting to New York City by air and subsequently to the hotel in Jersey City, N.J., via subway. The complicating factor was having their nonstop fight cancelled and many of the students arriving on several different flights, connecting in various cities around the eastern U.S. Many arrived up to 10 hours later than the 3 p.m. planned arrival in NYC. Since some groups of students arrived after midnight, traveling from the JFK airport by subway to their Jersey City hotel turned out to be truly an adventure!

Over the next two days, the students split into small groups to visit the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Grand Central Station and Times Square. The grand finale came on Wednesday. The students were sobered by their visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, excited by the grand view atop the Empire State Building, and finished the day with a stunning Broadway performance of the “Phantom of the Opera.”

Next the students and chaperones traveled by tour bus to the National Historic Park in Philadelphia, where they viewed Benjamin Franklin’s tomb, toured Independence Hall where the U.S. Constitution was drafted, and took pictures of the Liberty Bell.

The early morning exhaustion lifted after lunch when the group arrived in Lancaster, Pa. Their attention heightened as they toured Amish farms and communities with a Mennonite tour guide. The students learned about the Amish lifestyle by trying their homemade foods and discovered what a “quillow” was while viewing beautiful and colorful hand-crafted quilts. They even saw Amish with their spirited horses, buggies, and two-wheel push scooters traveling along the roads and byways.

The final day in Pennsylvania was met with a snowy reception at Gettysburg. The students visited the Gettysburg Battle Center Museum and learned about that pivotal Civil War battle. An exciting, albeit friendly, snowball fight followed outside the museum. The group then boarded the bus for a snow-white tour of the Gettysburg battlefields lined with cannons.

The final week of the history tour found the group in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. The students experienced a church service at Washington Cathedral with the sounds of the choir and pipe organ echoing around the arches and domes of the cathedral. Next they soaked in the horror of the Holocaust at the Holocaust Museum. Later the group toured Arlington Cemetery, where they were able to see JFK’s grave with the Eternal Flame, and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On another stop the group learned about George Washington’s life by visiting his beautiful home and farm on the banks of the Potomac River.

The students visited the famous Washington, D.C. memorials and monuments, including Washington’s Monument, the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, Lincoln’s Memorial, Jefferson’s Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Another major expedition was to the nation’s Capitol. The students viewed both congressional houses in session, and even had the opportunity to hear Sen. John McCain debate on the senate floor.

The concluding days in D.C. involved visiting other U.S. Government buildings and many Smithsonian Institution museums. They also attended a lighthearted ballet performance with a full orchestra at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The last stop was at Fort McHenry, Md., the birthplace of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The trip went by way too fast, but the students created memories that will last a lifetime. Student trip highlights are captured in the following quotes from three Lodi Academy seniors:

“It was an incredible trip. The opportunity to do something as extensive and exciting as this trip was does not come often, and I am truly lucky to have experienced this History Tour,” Marlen Outiveros said.

“Seeing my cousin’s name on the Vietnam Wall was special,” Ciera Stribling said.

“Seeing the memorials gave a whole new meaning to patriotism that I will never forget,” Julianne Payton said.

“It is through trips like these that history comes alive and becomes real to the students who experience them,” teacher Tom Larsen said.

Tom Larsen, who teaches U.S. history, Advanced Placement U.S. history and U.S. government, coordinated the trip.

Ilene Koeppen is a senior student at Lodi Academy.

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