ELKHART — For more than 20 years, dozens of local high school students would learn about U.S. history by visiting early English settlements, war memorials and other major historical sites as a part of an annual U.S. history trip.
The two-week-long trip was a regular part of Elkhart Community Schools’ summer schedule until 2008, when the school corporation decided to put the trip on hold because of the cost, given the local economy, explained Steve Starzyk, a Central High School U.S. history teacher.
Now, Starzyk and retired Pierre Moran Middle School teacher Dave Walker are working to revive the trip, looking for any area high school students interested in going.
“We do not know of any school in the country that attempts a unique trip like this one,” Starzyk said.
The class starts with two intense weeks of U.S. history study at Memorial High School, Starzyk said, followed by a two week trip out east, all in June. The most recent trip’s itinerary included stops at Jamestown and Williamsburg, Va.; and Gettysburg National Park. It also included tours of the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Wall, Korean War Memorial and World War II Memorial; as well as a tour of the U.S. Capitol building and Supreme Court. The group also visited Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and several other monuments, museums and memorials.
“History seems to be more exciting to students once they leave high school,” Starzyk said. “High school students like this because it’s hands-on history.”
For the trip to start up again, though, Starzyk said at least 25 students need to be signed up, though they’ll welcome up to 44 students.
The cost of the trip will be about $750 per student, though Starzyk said he is working with local organizations and companies to help fund the trip and decrease that total.
“I think students really mature and grow up on this trip,” he added. With two weeks away from home, students are faced with managing their time and money and other responsibilities their parents may have usually taken care of otherwise.
On past trips, students provided an update on their trip each day through a local radio station, now people can follow the group through its Facebook page, “Elkhart Summer U.S. History Trip.”
Students also earn two full U.S. history credits through the course. Along with the first two weeks of classroom work, students complete a detailed journal of the trip, Starzyk said, and also complete a final exam at the end of the course. Student come up with the bulk of the questions on the test during the long bus ride back to Elkhart County, he noted. Students have a final class time after returning to Elkhart County in July.
Visiting the landmarks “helps instill a patriotic pride that, we believe, will help foster good, productive citizens,” Starzyk wrote in an email.
“The amount of places and things we get to see is pretty amazing,” he added.
Students interested in participating or organizations interested in helping fund the trip can contact Starzyk by emailing him at email@example.com or by calling him at 295-4989, ext. 3053. Students from any area school may participate. Applications are due March 15.