To the Editor:
We would like to publicly thank all of the community members who supported the Bret Harte 8th graders as we traveled to Washington, D.C., this spring. This is the first year that Bret Harte has had an 8th grade due to the school actions in the last few years and the administration and staff wanted to be sure that they had every opportunity to experience the 8th grade activities that many students do at this time in their lives.
Our trip to Washington, D.C., was a huge success. We were able to take 27 students on the trip and five adults. We flew out of Midway Airport and spent three days there, touring all day long, taking in all of the memorials and museums. It was a packed trip and the students all gave it favorable reviews. For many, it was their first time flying.
We did a lot of fundraising to make this trip happen. We appreciate all of the community members who had their cars washed, bought raffle tickets, came to our Silent Auction/Raffle Event at Woodlawn Tap, bought chocolate bars and taffy apples, or donated through our Donorschoose Project site online. Without the generosity of those who helped through these efforts, and the parents who volunteered their time for each of these, we would not have been successful.
This trip was such a formative moment in these students’ lives. The students talk about the impact the Vietnam Memorial had on them or how they didn’t realize so many soldiers had lost their lives while we were touring Arlington National Cemetery. Our tour guide was great and one student came back reciting the one thing he wanted them to take away from his time with them – that freedom is not free. We expected them to take in the sites, learn to be respectful (they were so, so reverent at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), have fun walking around together, but we didn’t realize the way they would internalize the trip as a whole and what all those memorials together represent. Many of them said they want to return to D.C. at some point and revisit places that we just didn’t have enough time to take in fully.
We are already laying the ground work for next year’s trip. We are tired, but all who participated (students and educators) have been changed by this experience. We look forward to making these events, specifically the Silent Auction/Raffle Event, an annual opportunity to bring the outside community together with the Bret Harte school community.
We thank you with warm hearts for your support for our students and neighborhood school.
Donna Dyer-Williams (8th grade instructional assistant)
Kristy Ulrich Papczun (8th grade homeroom teacher)
Nicole Stuart (8th grade diverse learners teacher)
Emily Forrest-Mattfield (art teacher)