A group of 13 students and two chaperones from Walworth Jt. School District #1 joined with those from other area schools during an April visit to Washington. D.C.

Thirteen eighth-grade students enjoyed an action-packed three days in Washington, D.C., in late April as a class trip for Walworth Jt. School District #1. They were joined in the travel by other students from area schools. There were approximately 54 students and there were six adults. The Walworth chaperones were Dr. Nicole Hajewski, a reading specialist and the director of curriculum and instruction, and Kat Schwind from the Multiage Homeroom. An organization called WorldStrides organized the trip.

"It truly was really great," said Schwind. "WorldStrides did a very good job planning."

She added that the tour guide, Jay, did a fine job and he was a "really neat guy." The company also provided security at the hotel.

The Walworth group met at school by 1:30 a.m. and left by motorcoach at 1:45 a.m. on April 26. They arrived at the airport at 3:10 a.m. and departed from Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport at 5:10 a.m. By 8 a.m., the group arrived via Southwest Airlines at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. From there, they left for D.C. by motorcoach, arriving there at approximately 10:15 a.m.

The first stop was the Smithsonian Museums. After lunch, the group went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

"The Holocaust Museum was incredibly impactful for students," said Schwind. "They were, 'How could this happen?' It was good to see they absorbed that information."

"The kids seemed to enjoy exploring the various Smithsonian museums," said Hajewski. "Additionally, at the World War II Memorial, many students took time to reflect on the memorial. Some even chose to place their feet in the fountain, which is allowed and even encouraged if so desired." 

The National Archives were next on the schedule, followed by photo stops at the Washington Monument and the White House. After dinner at BlackFinn, next on tap was the World War II Memorial and then the Jefferson, FDR and MLK memorials. Each student received a carnation to lay at a tombstone or at the Pentagon Memorial. At 10 p.m., it was check-in time at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.

After breakfast on the second day, April 27, the students went to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. Following lunch was a stop at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial "Iwo Jima," depicting the six servicemen who raised the second U.S. flag during the battle of Iwo Jima. That was followed by a stop at Arlington National Cemetery, watching a guard change at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then the Pentagon Memorial, which is dedicated to the Sept. 11, 2008, terrorist attack.

"For me, the two most impactful (visits) were the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon, where I told them, 'I was about your age when that happened,' and the Holocaust Museum," said Schwind. "The students really liked the Arlington National Cemetery and the changing of the guards."

Hajewski agreed.

"Watching the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery was moving for the students," said Hajewski. "They were all silent and fixated on the entire process."

The afternoon finished with a meal at Uno Chicago Pizzeria and Grill and exploring Old Town Alexandria. At night was a Ghost and Graveyard Tour in Alexandria. 

The final day, April 28, was rain-filled, but still eventful. After breakfast and sightseeing, the group had a U.S. Capitol Building tour, home of the U.S. Congress. A group photo was taken there. Schwind said a student from Fontana is a cousin of a staff member for Rep. Bryan Steil of Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District. So Steil met with the students.

"The last day, everyone was soaked," said Schwind.

After lunch, there was a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Then were visits to memorials for Pres. Lincoln, Vietnam veterans and Korean War veterans. Following dinner, the group departed for the airport at 7:30 p.m. They departed on Southwest Airlines at BWI at 10:50 p.m. and arrived at MKE at 11:50 p.m.

"I was really proud of the entire group of students.  They were extremely respectful of the different memorials, as well as the rules and expectations at the hotel, the airport, and the airplane," said Hajewski.  "Our group received several compliments from passersby and employees about how respectful and well-behaved they were at different locations."

"I think it brought them closer as a group, with friends and experiences. Some were never on a plane before," said Schwind. "They were able to see opportunities around them. They gained some more perspective, a broader perspective."

A group of 13 students and two chaperones from Walworth Jt. School District #1 joined with those from other area schools during an April visit to Washington. D.C. (Submitted)