Monument students bound for China

<p>Monument School students, from left, Desiree Robison, Jamen Schafer, Treiquella Osborne, Stephen Binger, Bianca Thomas, Mary Cade and Jack Jewell take a break during a dinner the students held last fall to raise money for their trip to China. The seven high-schoolers will spend 10 days, March 4-13, touring the Asian country.</p>

MONUMENT – A group of Monument students are packing their bags for a school field trip that will take them about 9,700 miles from home.

Seven high-schoolers – freshman, Treiquella Osborne; sophomores, Desiree Robison, Jamen Schafer and Jack Jewell; and seniors, Stephen Binger, Bianca Thomas and Mary Cade – leave Sunday, March 4, for a 10-day excursion to China. Accompanying them will be seven adults – Monument superintendent/principal Earl Pettit, Nittaya Pettit, Chuck Thomas, Treila Smith, Jeanne Strange, Shawnah Schafer and Feng Yang.

Since January 2011, the students have raised over $14,000 toward the trip from a variety of activities, including three community dinners, can recycling drives, maple bar sales at ball games and working at area ranches.

Pettit said they earned about half the money just from the dinners. All the adults are paying their own way.

The group will visit the cities of Beijing, Xian, Shanghai and Suzhou. Among the planned activities are a visit to Tiananmen Square, rickshaw rides in Old Beijing, climbing the Great Wall and a ride on the world’s fastest magnetic train. The itinerary includes several more cultural, historical and culinary Chinese experiences.

They return Tuesday, March 13.

While it all sounds like fun, Pettit said it’s not going to be a vacation.

This is a school trip he said, with the students fulfilling English class requirements along the way.

Each is assigned to keep a journal throughout the 10 days, based on the theme, “the five senses.” They will log impressions and learning experiences based on what they see, smell, hear, touch and taste during their time in China.

The students will not be packing any communications devices either. Each will have a calling card and Pettit will have a cell phone for emergencies. They will also have Internet access at the hotels.

“We started planning this in December 2010, shortly after I started here,” Pettit said.

The students first discussed New York or Washington, D.C., as possible destinations for a school trip.

“I proposed they think more globally,” Pettit said, suggesting China. Having made three trips there himself, Pettit was familiar with the country and had contacts there.

He told the students that while they are likely to go to New York or Washington, D.C., someday, they might not ever get the chance to go someplace like China. In fact, only three of the 14 going on the trip have ever traveled internationally before.

In February 2011, the school board approved the China trip and the fundraising began.

Pettit said that the costs to go to China – $1,600 per student – worked out to almost the same as a domestic trip to the East Coast.

Pettit said that the trip will be a good opportunity for the students to learn a lot of things.

“I’m looking forward to the expressions on their faces,” he said.

Sometime after their return, the students plan to host a community dessert, where they can show photos from their China experience and thank those who supported the venture.

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