2017-04-19 / Front Page

Compass School fundraising for class trip to Cuba

By NEIL P. ALLEN

Guests dancing at the fiesta celebration fundraiser held in March for the Compass School’s junior class trip to Cuba. — COURTESYGuests dancing at the fiesta celebration fundraiser held in March for the Compass School’s junior class trip to Cuba. — COURTESYWESTMINSTER — On Tuesday, April 25, the entire junior class of Compass School in Westminster will be traveling to Cuba for their annual class trip as part of their Global Connections program.

Shortly after the school opened 18 years ago, the junior class started going on international trips. The first few years, only those who could afford to go went on the trips, according to DIrector Rick Gordon.

“The kids were coming back transformed. We decided that if it was good for some, it would be good for all,” he said. “For the last 15 years, every 11th grader, regardless of family income, gets to go on the trip.”

The program started as a class called Travel, according to Gordon.

“The students were given six weeks to design a trip to a developing country that was two weeks long, costs $1,500 and is educational,” said Gordon. “They do all the work.”

The trips are planned as if they are travelers, not tourists, according to Gordon. This includes finding flights, hotels, transportation and where to go once they arrive.

“They have to plan everything,” he said. “It expands their horizon and teaches them how to be travelers.”

In the past, after returning from the international trip three-quarters of the students went on self-initiated international travel “because they knew how to travel and travel cheap,” said Gordon.

The 14 students and four chaperones will be exploring Havana, Trinidad and Playa Larga during their time there.

“For some of the students, [the trip] will be a big stretch for them. Several of them have never flown and three-quarters of them have never been out of the U.S,” said Gordon. “It is challenging on many levels.”

The trips can be transformative, according to Gordon.

“They give the students a chance to learn about themselves and what they’re capable of,” he said. “It gives them the feeling of being capable of being in new situations. If you always do the familiar, you can be afraid to do something else. This carries over into all aspects of life.”

Normally, the students organize the trips and do all the planning but this year they had to go with a company that offers class trips to foreign locations.

“The research the kids did showed that it was cheap as anywhere  … if you’re an individual,” Gordon said. “But if you’re a group traveling there, there are more regulations and you have to go with a tour group.”

This had the unfortunate effect of raising the cost of the trip and having to reduce the number of days they are in Cuba from 14 days to only 10. The trip is going to cost more than $2,000 per student.

While they do fundraising every year, which is also organized by the students, this year they have had to do more to cover the increased costs. One-third of the trip is paid for by family contribution, which is determined on a sliding scale.

They have also participated in the Harvest Festival, had a fiesta celebration and silent auction in March with 250 guests and had some donations from crowdsourcing through Crowdrise.com. The students also wrote requests for grants and they are still waiting to hear back about those.

They will be continuing to accept donations for the trip through the spring. To make a tax-deductible donation online, please visit www.crowdrise.com and do a search for Compass School, or you can make a donation directly to the school at Compass School, 7892 US-5, Westminster, VT 05158.

For more information, please call (802) 463-2525.

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