MCC students headed to nation’s capitol on Friday

MANISTEE — When former Manistee Catholic Central teacher Peter Solwold began the Washington Group more than 30 years ago, it was with the idea of giving students an opportunity to expand their educational horizons.

Students from Manistee Catholic Central will be going to the Washington D.C. on Friday for their regular Washington Group trip. This photo shows the 2016 group visiting the Vietnam Memorial which is on the list of places this year's group will visit.

Students from Manistee Catholic Central will be going to the Washington D.C. on Friday for their regular Washington Group trip. This photo shows the 2016 group visiting the Vietnam Memorial which is on the list of places this year’s group will visit.

Solwold retired from teaching several years ago, but the tradition he started and financed through spaghetti dinners, recycling cardboard and bottle drives lives on today through teachers Rachel Henderson and Blaise LaPrad. On Friday they will be taking nine members of the freshmen class to Washington D.C. for another Washington Group experience.

Those students making the trip are freshmen Jenna Bialik, Caitlynn Davis, Darlene Diep, Rylee Feliczak, Nicole Kaminski, Natalie McLinden, Kyle Mikolajczak, Danielle Oleniczak and Claire Wittlieff.

Henderson and LaPrad will be there with the students for a week that will be filled with plenty of activities and learning opportunities at a variety of locations in the Washington D.C. area.

“We have an amazing number of things planned,” said Henderson. “I have never been on a trip that will keep you so busy with this many educational experiences.”

During the time Solwold and later Matt LaMore, took student groups on the Washington trip there were certain things they did every year. Henderson and LaPrad plan on continuing those long-standing traditions.

“We still plan on going to the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine at Immaculate Conception and visiting the Vietnam Wall Memorial and meeting with our representatives in government,” said Henderson.

LaPrad added that they also plan to go to George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon, but they do have one favorite they can’t visit this year.

“We can’t go to the Washington Monument because they are doing updates on the elevator,” he said. “Other things we still plan to do is the Smithsonian Museum and the Halocaust Museum.”

LaPrad said there will be some new things things year added to the agenda.

“There is a big Ferris Wheel that we are going to at twilight that shows you the skyline of Washington D.C. that we plan to visit and the kids are excited about that one,” said LaPrad. “Something else that is new that they plan to visit is the International Spy Museum.”

LaPrad said since he is new to the program he compiled a list of previous places the Washington Group visited over the years.

“We looked at all  those things and then I added some other ideas and asked the kids if they might be interested in any of those things that we can maybe fit in,” he said. “What we are trying to visit is the things that you can only see in D.C. and not things that might also be located in other places.”

LaPrad and Henderson said that even though the trip takes place this year, they are already working with the seventh grade class in fundraising efforts for when they go in two years. Being new to the program this year both teachers  said that is where the tradition really came out for them.

“When we were introducing those seventh graders to it we heard from a lot of their parents on how they had also went on the trip to Washington,” said LaPrad.

Henderson said the seventh through ninth grade students are still working the paper truck Tuesdays and Thursdays after school for two hours and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays for those who want to contribute cardboard.

“It’s a never ending thing as they are always working on it, said Henderson.

Henderson said they still get some new families to the school who this is their first child to attend the Washington Group trip. Henderson said that she and LaPrad are in a similar situation this year, as it will be their first experience with the trip.

“Both of us are new and I am excited to be part of this tradition,” she said. “But there is still a lot of things new for these kids as about half of them have never been on a plane before, so going through security and all the rest is a actually  life skill in itself for some of these kids. Being away from their families for a week is also a learning experience as is meeting the representatives, so we are really looking to the kids to grow.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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