Two from VIS tout student travel|Group just got back from New York, planning LA excursion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Some happy Vicksburg students will be singing “Hooray for Hollywood” about this time next year, but the actual “cast of characters” won’t be known for several months.

After successful student trips to Washington, D.C., in 2009 and New York City this year, plans have been made by administrators at Vicksburg Intermediate School to take students to Los Angeles March 7-10, 2011.

Their trip will include visits to the Hollywood Wax Museum and a VIP tour of Warner Brothers Studio, as well as guided sightseeing in Hollywood and Los Angeles.

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The dates coincide with next year’s spring break, so students will not lose any class time while they benefit from the experiences gained through travel, said VIS principal Sharon Williams.

“Because of these trips, those students will take the memories with them forever,” Williams added.

“They’re changed,” said VIS counselor Alicia Sharp, who coordinates all aspects of the trips for students and chaperones. “They’ll never be the same again.”

Sharp attended the Feb. 18 school board meeting to get approval for next year’s trip, and has sent home notices and information to VIS fourth- and fifth-graders who are eligible to go.

Other Vicksburg schools are welcome to send groups, too. “I want students to come together and experience it,” Williams said. “This is the Vicksburg Warren School District, and I want us to be unified.”

Logistics and oversight responsibilities, including liability, require that any other school sending a group also send its own chaperones and faculty for that group, Sharp said. “But if another school got a group together, we could share the bus, share the plane and share the hotel.”

Cost of the trip to Los Angeles will be about $1,350, Sharp said, if students sign up and pay a $150 deposit by March 31 — a week from today. That’s $75 less than what the cost will be after April 1. Other incremental pricing applies as the deadline for registering without penalty approaches — usually around Nov. 1, Sharp said.

After the deposit, monthly payments of $100 to Smithsonian means parents can budget and spread the expense more manageably over the course of a year.

“We want to get (notice of) it out there far enough in advance that they have time to plan and pay for it,” Williams said.

A dozen fifth- and sixth-graders and six chaperones returned Friday from New York, and last year nine students and three adults traveled to Washington at the time of President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony.

Sharp and Williams are projecting that 20 or more students will take advantage of the opportunity next year, along with a few parents and perhaps faculty to serve as chaperones. “It will be even easier to manage this time,” Sharp said.

Managed by Smithsonian Student Travel, the tours include airfare and hotel as well as entry fees and excursions to popular attractions.

In addition, tour guides and hotel security staff are provided.

“They are so thorough,” said Williams, who has been on both previous trips, with her husband helping to chaperone and her daughter among the students. “Everything is taken care of.”

The kids were so engaged in all that they were seeing, discipline was not a problem, she said.

In terms of “the history and the feeling” of the Washington, D.C., experience, Williams said she doesn’t expect anything to top it, but New York was “wonderful” and she said she wished every fifth- and sixth-grader at VIS could have gone.

The students walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, saw the Broadway musical “Mary Poppins,” ate at authentic New York restaurants, rode the subway to Yankee Stadium and other landmarks, shopped at FAO Schwarz, visited Central Park, museums and Ellis Island, and even saw the hotel featured in the movie “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”

“There were just so many wonderful things that they were able to relate to,” Williams said. “No one has anything negative to say about it except you’re exhausted when you get back. And that just means you got your money’s worth out of it.”

Contact Pamela Hitchins at