Students’ educational trip emphasizes course material

“They are so pumped. They can’t stop talking about it,” said Marathon High School teacher Katie Balazs. “I can barely teach my class.”

The trip for 16 students in the AP (Advanced Placement) Government class is almost a year in the making. Balazs and her students began planning it just before the end of the last school year. MHS teacher Diana Walker is also along to chaperone.

It has required a tremendous amount of creative fundraising, as well as soliciting community organizations. Some students were also able to contribute to the kitty for the $10,000 trip. And they’re not done yet.

Students Natalie Ehrig and Claire McCarthy said they hope to raise more this weekend parking cars at the Seafood Festival.

“We’d like to earn extra so we can visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum and International Spy Museum,” Ehrig said.

The students leave Wednesday, March 18. The highlight of the trip, Balazs said, is a tour of the Capitol.

“One of Senator Rubio’s staff members is going to give us a personal tour,” Balazs said.

In addition, the kids will visit the Arlington Cemetery, take an evening tour of the monuments “by moonlight,” the National Archives, the Supreme Court, and spend a whole day on the Mall with forays into the various Smithsonian museums.

Balazs said the trip coincides with what the kids have been learning in class. They just finished up a section on the different branches of government and will cover civil rights and civil liberties just before they depart. When they get back, the class will cover U.S. policy. She said the trip will cement what they have already learned in class and spark interest in what’s to come.

The students fundraised relentlessly to make trip happen. They bagged groceries. They washed cars. They manned a volunteer tent from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. during the Ragnar ultra race that passed through the Keys recently. And they teamed up with the Boosters to produce scratch-off cards, inviting “gamblers” to donate the amount listed under the secret strip — 50 cents, $1, $3.

The students also set about collecting donations from various community organizations. The Historic Tours of America was very generous, as were the Shriners and Masonic Lodge. The BPW club, First State Bank, Marathon Boat Yard and Judge Becker also contributed.

Two years ago, Balazs took her AP Government students on a trip to Tallahassee. She said she immediately started dreaming of something bigger.
“It was fabulous. We wanted to do it again,” she said.

Bon voyage, students. Soak up some knowledge and bring back plenty of photos.

The students going to Washington are (in alphabetical order) Jake Coldren, Natalie Ehrig, John Galjanic, Liam Griffin, Aaron Grube, Jamine Guo, Reef Landrum, Seth Landry, Claire McCarthy, Melanie Ornelas, Kiley Platt, Sharon Rodriguez, Rebekah Smith, Glennis Walters, Kenna Welever and Will Wolfe.


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